Invited by HazNet, IRDR Scientific Committee Chair Prof. John Handmer and member Prof. Rajib Shaw wrote their capsule for either 2030 or 2050 to provide advice to future emergency managers, resilience practitioners, and disaster risk reduction (DRR) scholars.
John Handmer: DRR as a fundamental human right
Covid-19 and what were at the time dramatic climate-related events of heat and fire established a new global risk landscape. The risks were dynamic, complex, systemic, and cascading across society, economies, and environments. Long-established approaches to disaster risk reduction could not deal effectively with this new complexity. Needed was a strong emphasis on how these risks are connected to, and their solutions synergistic with, climate change issues and the Sustainable Development Goals, among other global agreements on the major challenges facing humanity. These issues were to be well on the way to being solved by 2030, but national politics and the pandemic severely disrupted progress.
As a result of the stalled progress and widespread public demands for action on global threats, disaster risk reduction was declared a fundamental human right in 2025.
This declaration did not by itself alter the risks – which if not already existential were heading that way – and they were left for you to deal with. It did however, focus minds across the sector and related areas like climate change, and helped drive people out of their silos to collaborate. Working across disciplines and sectors is probably the only way that the complex risks of today can be usefully tackled. Collaboration of this sort, including between end-users and researchers, takes effort, but can be key to building mutual trust and respect, gaining insights, as well as providing useful reality checks.
In the field of disaster risk reduction, people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake and ethics and integrity are therefore critically important. We need to be honest about the assumptions and limitations of our work whether in research or practice, and keep in mind the imperative of universal inclusion – now given the force of law through the rights declaration.
Rajib Shaw: “Society 5.0”, 2050
In 2050, you are living in a different world. Thirty years ago, in the year 2020, we had a great pandemic called Coronavirus (COVID-19), which killed several hundreds of thousands, affecting millions of people globally. The world came to a standstill in terms of global mobility. We thought of changing from busy urban lifestyles to more ecological and nature-friendly and efficient lifestyles. We talked about a “new normal,” but then went back to “normal.”
With technology, the world is becoming closely interconnected. Meanwhile, “living with uncertainty” becomes common, be it for climate change or be it for technological, biological, and other types of hazards. As I write this time capsule in 2020, I think back another thirty years, to when we started the international disaster decade in 1990. From 1990 to 2020, we saw many changes in the disaster and climate field, the most prominent being the use of technology and innovation. Challenges still remain in how we deliver the benefits of technology to the most needy, the vulnerable. Thirty years from now, in 2050, I hope this challenge will be addressed properly. Our urgent need is to break the digital divide, bringing solutions and innovation to poor, elderly, and remote communities. The “information” age of the 2020s will change to the “Society 5.0” of 2050, where the emerging technologies of the 2020s (like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, the Internet of Things, Drones, Blockchain etc.) become essential and affordable technologies.
So, be innovative, be passionate, think about the most vulnerable groups, and contribute to building a resilient society in an uncertain world.