By resolution 44/236 (22 December 1989), the General Assembly designated the second Wednesday of October International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction. The International Day was to be observed annually during the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, 1990-1999.
By resolution 64/200 of 21 December 2009 the General Assembly decided to designate 13 October as the date to commemorate the Day and to change the Day’s name to International Day for Disaster Reduction. The objective of the observance is to raise awareness of how people are taking action to reduce their risk to disasters.
The focus of 2015 year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction is on the traditional, indigenous and local knowledge which complement modern science and add to an individual’s and societies’ resilience. For example, knowledge of early warning signals in nature can be vital to ensuring early action is taken to mitigate the impact of both slow and fast onset disasters such as droughts, heatwaves, storms and floods. Combined with scientific knowledge such as reports generated by meteorologists, local knowledge is vital for preparedness and can be passed on from generation to generation.
New knowledge and coping strategies are being generated all the time as communities in hazard prone locations work out new ways and means to adapt to disaster and climate risk. In many aspects, indigenous people epitomise the importance of local knowledge and community-level engagement in disaster risk reduction. 370 million people around the world identify themselves as indigenous, in 90 countries. Indigenous peoples’ territories span over 24% of the earth’s surface and they manage 80% of the world’s biodiversity.
Many traditions, practices and customs which are important to environmental protection and managing disaster risk are embedded in those languages which are threatened with extinction. In both rural and urban settings, indigenous peoples have unique vulnerabilities and needs in disaster risk reduction and in post-disaster recovery. At the same time, indigenous peoples have unique capacities and knowledge.