Midterm Review Plenary session 3: Rethinking sustainable development; investing with strategic foresight to build resilience

27 May 2022

Listen to UN Women's statement during the Sendai Framework Midterm Review Plenary session 3 at the 7th Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Summary of MTR SF Plenary 3

The operating environment in which the Sendai Framework and other frameworks are being implemented at global, regional, national and local levels, has altered immeasurably since 2015, not least with the COVID-19 pandemic and global warming through anthropogenic climate change. Both demonstrate the systemic nature of risk, and demand urgent and fundamental reflections on how the world seeks to understand, collaborate and manage risk within the context of sustainable and regenerative development in the 21st century; now, to 2030 and beyond.

This Plenary will therefore initiate a forward-looking discussion on how we address risk in a way that is timely, coherent and is drawn from diverse knowledge systems, and explores the shifts in values, perspectives and paradigms that underpin current efforts to rethink approaches to sustainable development.

While convening this discussion, the Plenary will explore options of enhancing or renovating existing arrangements and tools present in the multilateral system to identify, govern and address risk to build resilience in a rapidly destabilizing world.

The Plenary will specifically talk about institutional and collaborative arrangements within sustainable development, that can be ‘fit for purpose’ and thus more ‘effective’ for developing capacities to foster relationships, collective endeavour and coherence that span institutional silos and levels. This includes: adaptive governance and dispersed coordination practices; inclusive novel partnerships composed of different sectors and actors working vertically and horizontally in an integrated manner, while continuing to strengthen the role of all stakeholders in decision making through an all of State institutions and all-of-society approach.

This Plenary will further discuss identifying key attributes of a multilateral system that can effectively address risk and build resilience, particularly in the context of imminent and emerging risks. It can also discuss options to actualize these attributes through a range of measures.

The discussions will focus on enhancing the effectiveness, accountability and inclusivity of the multilateral system, including by addressing fragmentation, gridlock and lack of agility, and greater engagement of local communities. It will also consider suggestions on how to end the rigid silos that impede the address of critical issues, and which contribute to risk governance and risk management approaches that promote divergence rather than convergence and coherence.


As with the rapidly changing riskscape and our understanding of it, the architecture and mechanisms of risk governance and risk management at the international and national levels available to address these risks are also evolving. These bring both challenges and opportunities.

Contemporary policy measures and initiatives are moving in the direction of being more receptive to a more complex understanding of risk that more accurately depicts the interdependent relationship between the economy, environment, and society. Such risk reduction measures and initiatives, however, are often still hampered by aspects of ‘sectorisation’, ‘departmentalisation’ and artificial separation by mandate, which can result in, for example, structural inefficiencies, or a lack of public trust when multiple perspectives and the contextual agency of local communities are not adequately incorporated. Such measures and initiatives often also fall short of accounting for the scope of risks and hazards highlighted in the Sendai Framework, do not consider scenarios for catastrophic risks, nor invest adequately in flexibility to enable pre-adaptative capacity. Within this context, reform and realignment are imperative.

The current disposition of the multilateral system has been successful in ‘agenda setting’ by developing i) global frameworks (e.g., the Paris Agreement, the 2030 Agenda, the New Urban Agenda, etc.) that, in part, address critical hazards and risks, and ii) also developing a framework dedicated to, inter alia, the governance of these hazards and risks (Sendai Framework). Taken together, these frameworks provide the basis for an all-of-society framework for risk governance at the global and regional levels.

However, as demonstrated so starkly by COVID-19 and other intersecting and cascading risks and hazards (both current and emerging), the global risk governance architecture – and the risk management mechanisms that emanate from it – are inadequate. This situation is compounded by the fact that an increasing number of stakeholders now view the multilateral system and its institutions as not being ‘fit for purpose’ to govern and adapt effectively to today's realities. These institutions are often seen as inadequate to effectively address risk in their own domains, thus making addressing the systemic nature of risk even harder. Deficient governance can lead to initiatives with insufficient commitment – political and economic; further increasing knowledge gaps.

The Plenary may therefore explore renovations that, for example:

  • facilitate novel collaboration among multilateral entities that allow earlier and better identification of anomalies and signals of risk creation and propagation to be identified,
  • that subsequently trigger timely transdisciplinary, inter-institutional action to explore and implement pre-adaptive approaches to prevent and reduce risk, and ultimately support reliable ‘monitoring’ and ‘follow up’ on the implementation of policies intended to address these risks and build resilience.