UNEP launches learning tool to reduce risks of disasters

29th August 2014

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  • Adaptation ,
  • Mitigation ,
  • Skills ,
  • CPD


Callum Draper

The UN environment programme (UNEP) has unveiled the first massive open online course (MOOC) designed to build resilience against the risks of natural disasters, which it says have been made worse by the unpredictable impacts of climate change.

MOOCs offer unlimited participation and open access via the web and provide interactive user forums to share knowledge and information. UNEP intends to use its open access MOOC to build and share a learning platform on how to minimise disaster risk through "natural" or ecosystem-based solutions.

UNEP says that natural disasters have cost more than 1.2 million lives over the past decade and economic losses have continued to escalate, with projections indicating that disaster damage costs will climb up to $400 billion a year and could get worse with climate change.

Ecosystems, such as forests, wetlands and reefs can provide valuable protection against natural hazards like avalanches and flooding, yet there is limited awareness of the services offered by ecosystems and their effectiveness as a tool for disaster risk reduction, according to UNEP.

"In order to bring disaster losses under control, we need more skills, scale and speed in our disaster risk reduction efforts,” said Dr Muralee Thummarukudy, senior manager for disaster risk reduction at UNEP. “This MOOC improves access at a global scale by enabling people to learn directly from experts and practitioners how to apply ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and adaptation in their own communities."

UNEP will use the MOOC to demonstrate the links between climate change, disaster and the environment. Participants will have access to a range of tools for eco-disaster risk reduction and adaptation, including guest lectures from world leaders and real-life case studies. Policymakers and decision-makers, practitioners, experts and the wider public will all have access to the MOOC.

The MOOC, which was launched at the 5th international disaster and risk conference (IDRC) in Davos, Switzerland, is a collaborative initiative between UNEP, the Centre for Natural Resources and Development and a consortium of 11 universities from around the world.


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