The Australian Government and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) recently co-hosted the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (APMCDRR) to provide a forum for delegates from across the Asia-Pacific region to promote coordination and cooperation on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Held on 19-22 September, the conference brought together UN Member States, intergovernmental organisations, international and national organisations and stakeholder groups including academia to accelerate progress on disaster risk reduction, supporting the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 13 on Climate Action.

More than 3,500 delegates from 58 countries registered for the event, which included panel discussions, workshops, talks, talanoa and networking sessions. As the conference was hosted in Brisbane, stronger representation was achieved from across the Pacific Islands, and this was reflected in the program. During the four-day conference, these sessions encompassed a wide variety of topics, from anticipatory action to youth empowerment.

For UNSW, the conference was a great opportunity to connect and reconnect with others across the region and strengthen partnerships. UNSW was represented by Dean of Engineering Professor Steve Foster, inaugural Judith Neilson Chair in Architecture Professor David Sanderson and GWI Director Professor Greg Leslie, along with 12 other scholars. Scientia scholar Eleanor Earl said, “Having started my PhD on flood resilience in the Pacific Islands during the pandemic, it was fantastic to attend the conference to meet others working in DRR in the Asia-Pacific region. The conference enabled me to better understand Pacific Island perspectives on DRR, particularly in relation to flooding and use of nature-based solutions.” 

The APMCDRR was also an opportunity to expand the UN-UNSW relationship, building on introductory meetings which were hosted by the UN Development Coordination Office Asia Pacific in Bangkok in August. UNSW invited UN colleagues and others to a networking event on Monday 19 September. Mr. Tapan Mishra, the UN Resident Coordinator in Mongolia explained that Mongolia is vulnerable to many natural disasters, including floods, desertification, and dzud (a unique disaster in Mongolia that a huge number of livestock die in starvation caused by severe weather). He invited UNSW engineers and scientists to visit Mongolia  to improve the problem together. 


United Cities and Local Governments Asia-Pacific (UCLG ASPAC), Indonesia, organised a learning lab on 'The Cost of Doing Nothing – Scenarios for Investing in Resilience' on 23 September. Participants reflected on how governments working on DRR should balance both resilience and the economy (finance) while making decisions. 

Given that the Asia-Pacific is the ‘most disaster prone’ region in the world, there is a pressing need to share DRR experience and work together. UNSW’s presence at the conference helped to strengthen critically important relationships to achieve impact in DRRM. UNSW Institute for Global Development catalysed the engagement with the UN; David Sanderson coordinated the UNSW delegation; Steve Foster sponsored the engagement, and Badal Pokharel provided administrative assistance.