ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights and defeat poverty for all.

Cyclone Pam a critical warning to world leaders to act urgently on disaster preparedness: ActionAid

14/03/15: The devastating effects expected from Cyclone Pam serve as a warning to world leaders to step up their commitment to preparing for disasters as the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction gets underway in Japan, international aid agency ActionAid warned today.  

Cyclone Pam has hit Vanuatu as the third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) takes place in the Japanese city of Sendai. The conference provides an opportunity for world leaders to commit to a renewed global strategy for reducing the risk of disasters, which have increased significantly in the past decade due largely to increased erratic weather conditions linked to intensifying climate change.

But world leaders have not yet indicated that they are set to make the commitments needed to protect the most vulnerable groups and mitigate the risks posed by disasters in the current climate.

 ActionAid Australia’s Deputy Executive Director, Michelle Higelin, speaking from the third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, said this morning:

“Everything that’s come out of the negotiations ahead of this conference indicates that the ambition of global leaders is falling short, and it will not achieve the outcomes needed to protect the world’s most vulnerable groups going forward,” Ms Higelin said.

“Cyclone Pam is a devastating but timely reminder that there is no time to lose in making ambitious global commitments to reducing the risk that disasters pose to populations everywhere, and particularly to poor and marginalised in local communities all over the world.

“We’re concerned that the human rights of those most vulnerable groups – particularly women – are not being considered significantly enough by world leaders. This is a major oversight, given that women are disproportionately affected by disasters. We can already expect that women will make up the majority of those affected by Cyclone Pam due to gender inequality and poverty, and past experience.

“The decisions made at this weekend’s conference must recognise vulnerable groups and affirm women’s vital role in leading disaster reduction efforts. Equally importantly, there must be concrete targets and resources to match these commitments.  Without taking meaningful action on women’s role in disasters, the world cannot be adequately prepared for disasters.

“We’re calling on developed countries to commit at least 5% of their official development assistance to disaster risk reduction – and to provide this to disaster-prone countries to fulfil their preparedness needs.

“This is also a reminder to the Australian government of how critical our aid program is, and that in the face of increasing frequency, scale and impact of disasters, we should be lifting our aid investment not cutting it to an all-time low.  We should be prioritising the needs and demands of developing country partners on DRR over our own national interests – which is little help in times of crisis such as this.

“We’re calling on the Australian government to put the rights of vulnerable groups, including women, at the forefront of its agenda at this World Conference and to restore its aid budget to 0.5% of our gross national income. We’re also calling on world leaders to take into account the urgency of the situation. Disasters like Cyclone Pam are coming harder and faster, and eroding poverty reduction efforts. There is no time to lose.” 


Michelle Higelin is in Sendai attending the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. For interviews, contact:

(In Sendai) Holly Miller +61 432 781 294 or 


Editors' notes

ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights for all and defeat poverty.