Taking stock and moving forward: Highlights from the Sendai Framework Mid-Term Review High-Level Meeting

By Marcos Concepcion Raba
13 June 2023


Amidst the mounting urgency to address the escalating risks we face, the Sendai Framework Mid-Term Review High-Level Meeting convened delegates from over 170 countries at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Their shared objective was to accelerate the implementation of the second half of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030). This pivotal gathering sparked a resolute commitment to prioritise disaster risk reduction (DRR), empower local communities, and enhance our ability to mitigate and respond to interconnected risks.

How can we understand, anticipate, prevent, and respond to a changing risk landscape?

As we look back at this event, I can’t help but emphasise the crucial role of localization for DRR. The Sendai Framework Mid-Term Review Report painted a sobering picture, revealing that we are falling short of achieving the Framework’s targets, with disasters increasing significantly since 2015. We all know something has to be done, and this meeting was a pivotal moment to take action.

From Leaders’ Roundtables to High-Level Multi-stakeholder panel sessions and UNDRR’s Risk Reduction Side Events, 5,000 delegates engaged in over 30+ sessions that  tackled topics like Synergizing Climate Action and Disaster Risk Reduction, Accelerating Action for Gender-Responsive Disaster Risk Reduction, and Disaster Risk Reduction in countries facing multidimensional crises.

I was fortunate to be present at the High-Level Meeting, representing GNDR alongside my colleague, Adessou Kossivi, and Global Board Member, Sophie Rigg, as well as Members Ireen Ng’ambi, Tanjir Hossain, and Manu Gupta. Together, we championed our calls to action and urged governments to commit to localization for DRR. Being there in person, we felt the energy and the shared commitment of everyone present. To delve deeper into our policy analysis and insights, I invite you to explore our findings.

Risk Reduction Hub Side-Events:

On the sidelines of the Sendai Framework High-Level Meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction, GNDR actively engaged in the vibrant discussions held at the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR)’s Risk Reduction Hub. Our network had the privilege to participate in four insightful sessions, where we delved into critical disaster risk reduction issues.

Human mobility in the context of disasters

Protecting and ensuring the dignity of people on the move is the paramount responsibility of States and an essential challenge for all stakeholders in disaster risk reduction. In a powerful session, Tanjir Hossain, Former GNDR National Focal Point for Bangladesh and current Global Resilience Advisor for ActionAid, shed light on civil society’s perspective, emphasising the need to comprehend the drivers of human mobility such as disasters and forced displacement. By closely collaborating with affected communities, we can develop informed and effective solutions. Watch the captivating session here:

Synergizing Climate Action and Disaster Risk Reduction

Our Climate Lead, Adessou Kossivi, facilitated a break-out working group on Synergizing Climate Action and Disaster Reduction at the local level in this session that targeted decision-makers and -shapers in governments to understand the enabling factors that facilitate successful integration of disaster risk reduction and climate action at the national and local levels.

Sophie Rigg, GNDR Global Board Member and ActionAid UK‘s Head of Policy and Research, Climate and Humanitarian, sought political leverage points within the climate and UNFCCC space to advance resilience and preparedness.

You can now watch the livestream here: 

A Whole of Society Approach – The role of Non-state Actors in the Sendai Framework Implementation

During the session, we strongly emphasised the vital role of non-state actors in implementing the Sendai Framework. Even while acknowledging UNDRR’s recommendations in the

Mid-Term Review (MTR) we advocated for the use of stronger language to emphasise the need of investing at the local level and empowering women leaders and young people.

At the same time, we called on the UN system, member states and the support of all stakeholders to explicitly acknowledge the critical role of civil society, recognize conflict as a significant driver of disaster risk, and prioritise support for conflict-affected states in developing robust disaster risk governance.

Finally, we insisted on how absolutely essential is that member states commit to (1) championing localisation in practice, listening to the local level and investing at the local level (2) risk-informed development is understood and implemented at all levels, starting from the local perspective and (3) civil society are meaningfully engaged in all elements of the Sendai Framework. 

We extended an invitation to member states to collaborate and actively participate in a comprehensive whole-of-society approach.

High-level meeting on the mid-term review of the Sendai Framework


As we reflect on the first day of the meeting, it’s impossible not to highlight the sense of urgency and determination that permeated the discussions. UNGA President Csaba Kőrösi opened the High-Level Meeting, reminding us that this Mid-Term Review is our last chance to change course before 2030. The Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Amina Mohammed, reiterated the lack of significant progress so far, which has resulted in the loss of countless lives and the suffering of millions.

Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of UNDRR shared powerful insights on understanding risks and cascading impacts. She stressed the pivotal role of civil society in enhancing preparedness and effective response at the local level. These remarks resonated deeply with all of us who understand the importance of engaging communities and empowering them to take action.

During the plenary sessions, held under the theme “Charting liveable pathways for humans and nature,” we had the opportunity to engage in several panel discussions. In one of these panels, moderated by Adessou Kossivi, we highlighted the need to bring DRR into humanitarian and peace-building efforts, with a specific focus on countries facing multidimensional crises.

Dr. Manu Gupta, Co-Founder of GNDR member SEEDS India, passionately stressed the significance of increasing communities’ adaptive capacity to effectively manage risks.

Looking back, the meeting was a testament to the power of collaboration and shared responsibility for disaster risk reduction. The discussions were robust, and key themes emerged—themes that reinforce the need for local action and localization for DRR. It’s clear that we need to mobilise resources, empower communities, and integrate DRR into various sectors to build a resilient future.

Delegates then adopted the Political Declaration of the Sendai Framework Midterm Review 2015-2030 which breathes life into the imperatives of understanding and investing in disaster risk reduction (DRR), strengthening governance and preparedness, and embarking on a transformative journey of “building back better.”

Political declaration:

Reflecting on the Political Declaration, we acknowledge the positive steps taken in recognizing the importance of increasing investment in disaster risk reduction. We are pleased to see our civil society and SEM call-to-action messages reflected in key areas, including the adoption of a whole-of-society approach, the recognition of local knowledge and expertise, and the emphasis on inclusive participation and leadership of communities, women, young people, people with disabilities, and older people, including a dedicated gender action plan. 

While we commend these commitments, we emphasise the need for even stronger commitments from member states in investing at the local level, fostering local expertise and leadership, and effectively implementing the whole-of-society approach. Political goodwill and accountability are crucial in unlocking the successful implementation of disaster risk reduction strategies. 

We note with concern that the political statement fails to include the importance of supporting conflict-affected and fragile states with disaster risk reduction governance, an issue that we will continue to advocate for. 

DAY 2:

In a series of multi-stakeholder panels, risk governance issues were addressed, and examples of good practice were presented.

In the session titled, ‘’ A collective responsibility – Localising disaster risk reduction,’’ I shared insights on the importance of integrating a whole-of-society approach for effective disaster risk reduction, and in particular, the role of civil society in stakeholder mobilisation, and capacity strengthening for localisation.

One of my personal highlights was Sophie Riggs’ passionate advocacy for civil society’s role in supporting the transition by member states toward implementing funding and decision making with local communities. Her recommendation for an accountability mechanism to local communities resonated with attendees in the session.

Ireen Ng’ambi from GNDR member Tenvelo presented practical examples and benefits of locally led disaster risk reduction initiatives carried out in Eswatini. It was inspiring to hear firsthand the positive outcomes and positive impact of locally-led DRR on communities. If you’d like to delve deeper into the session, you can watch the full recording at:

Way forward:

As a network of civil society organisations around the world, we are committed to creating a world where societies work together to strengthen the resilience of people most-at-risk of disasters and prevent hazards from turning into catastrophes. Together, we stand united to support the UN system and member states to fast-track the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

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