There is significant evidence of the growth of natural disasters on a global level. For instance, in the years 1900 to 1909 natural disasters occurred 73 times, whereas from 2000 to 2005 this number increased to 2,788 (Kusumasari et al., 2010). As stated by Guha-Sapir et al. (2011) the number of victims increased to 232 million in the period 2001–2010. The Asia-Pacific region continues to be the world’s most disaster prone region; it has many low-/middle-income countries (LMICs), accounting for 47% of the world’s 344 disasters in 2015 with reported economic damage in the region of US$ 5.1 Billion and 16,046 fatalities. In this context, the most disaster-prone sub- region is South Asia, recording 52 disasters and 14,647 deaths which represent 64% of the global fatalities in 2015. Typical natural disasters in this region are floods, earthquakes, landslides and droughts which have the potential to wipe away hard earned development gains achieved over many years as a result of a single catastrophic disaster. Therefore, building resilience to natural disasters within low-/middle-income countries (LMICs) should be considered as an important factor in sustainable development. The adoption of both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (SFDRR) are landmark developments which serve as collective & timely efforts for future actions which will lay the foundation for building resilience in Asia – the most disaster prone region in the world.
In their report on “Disasters in Asia and the Pacific: 2015 Year in Review”, the United Nations Economics and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN/ESCAP, 2015) present a range of recommendations to address the current challenges faced by the Asia-Pacific region which are: (a) Urban resilience which needs urgent attention; (b) Managing transboundary river basin floods through innovation and regional cooperation; (c) Encouraging cross-border assistance and learning; (d) Addressing slow-onset disasters; (e) End-to-end multi-hazard warning systems; (f) Capitalising on innovative space technology applications and emerging technologies, and (g) Political leadership for the success of disaster risk reduction and management. The MOBILISE proejct specifically aims to address ESCAP recommendations (a), (f) and (g).
Scientific research has shown that disaster risks do not only exist because of the presence of a physical hazard; they are compounded by the presence of vulnerability (Aldunce & León, 2007). Therefore, there is an urgent need to shift our focus from pure emergency response and recovery towards a sustainable disaster mitigation framework (McEntire, 2004) that focuses on building resilience within a disaster prone area, involving government agencies and the local community, to reduce the impact of a hazard (Trim, 2004). Within this context, the focus of disaster management needs to change as follows from hazard to vulnerability reduction; from reactive to proactive; from single agency to partnerships; from response management to risk management. However, these changes require new partnership models, an emphasis on the early stages of the disaster management cycle (preparedness, response at early critical stages) and novel technological solutions that can promote collaborative risk assessment involving a range of stakeholders (Aldunce & León, 2007). These changes can be supported by a digital platform that can map vulnerabilities (social, infrastructure, economic, natural) for a single or multiple hazards as well as their cascading effects on networked critical infrastructure, the community and the economy.
The purpose of the MOBILISE project is to develop a digital platform that will allow multi-agencies to establish a common understanding of vulnerabilities, to explore “what-if” scenarios, to identify the impact of various hazards on infrastructure, the community and the economy in different local contexts, and to improve resilience capacities through various mitigation measures. Furthermore, the same digital platform should be capable of providing the intelligence that is captured in the system to multi-agencies in conducting early response and damage assessment during and after a disaster.