Despite the challenges, constraints and conflicts of the contemporary world the global community has steadfastly drawn a vision of the future that would promote ‘sustained inclusive and resilient economic growth, social development and environmental protection for the benefit of all’ 1 .This vision of ‘The Future We Want’ 2was taken forward through five separate but interrelated global frameworks and agreements adopted during 2015-2016. Reducing risks and developing resilience to disasters is one of the common threads that bind these frameworks together.
The framework of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) announced: ‘We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world on to a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind’.3 .This path of resilience to disasters is firmly embedded in seven out of seventeen sustainable development goals and targets.
The Sendai Framework sought to build resilience through an overarching goal of ‘substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries’. 4
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change proclaimed its aim to ‘halt the rise in global average temperature 2°C above pre-industrial levels’ and ‘foster climate resilience’ for ‘sustainable development and eradication of poverty’.5 . It outlined eight action areas for enhancing ‘understanding, action and support’ for disaster reduction.
The New Urban Agenda focused on three ‘transformative commitments’ for sustainable urban development that include commitments for environmentally sustainable and disaster resilient urban development,6 . while the Agenda for Humanity identified six specific action areas for enhancing investments for humanity.7
Three years down the 2015 momentum, the euphoria of building the Future We Want is facing formidable practical challenges of implementation. Initiatives of achieving the sustainable development goals are beset with daunting challenges of striking balance of social, economic and environmental aspects of development, besides constraints of resources and capacities, particularly in the developing and least developed countries. The Paris Agreement received serious setback when the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases backed out of the agreement. No clear and definite roadmaps for achieving the seven global goals of Sendai Framework for reducing risks of disasters are in place. Similarly, the transformative commitments of the New Urban Agenda and Agenda for Humanity are not backed by adequate and concrete actions by local and national governments and regional and international organisations. In short, the gaps between pledges and action are widely visible in almost every front especially in the contexts of fifteen-year time frame set for implementation of most of the goals and targets of the global development agenda.
Despite commitments for enhanced international cooperation for finance, capacity development and technology transfer, there are ominous signs of dwindling support amidst emergence of new nationalist political order in some countries. The mid-decade chorus for transformative changes have not been matched, in most of the countries, by significant national and local level policies, programmes and actions for effecting these transformations. Lack of disaggregated data, absence of innovative research and actionable knowledge of various social, economic and environmental processes are constraining effective planning, designs and monitoring of policies, programmes and activities.
Notwithstanding all these constraints and challenges, there are rays of new hopes, aspirations, knowledge, initiatives and sound practices from many corners. These are significant and need to be documented, shared and replicated on a wider scale for building the future we want.