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UNEP Launches First Graduate Course on Disasters, Environment and Risk Reduction

Nairobi / Marrakesh – In an effort to target the root causes of environmental disaster risk, a new Graduate Course on Disasters, Environment and Risk Reduction was launched on June 11 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Center for Natural Resources and Development (CNRD) at the 7th World Environmental Education Congress in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Floods and Storm Damage in Haiti. © UNEP

The 50-hour interactive course was compiled by researchers and practitioners from over 10 countries and combines ecosystem studies with disaster risk management and climate change adaptation through case studies and ecosystem based tools for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

“This course on Disasters, Environment and Risk Reduction is a new approach,” said Dr. Muralee Thummarukudy, Chief of Disaster Risk Reduction at UNEP. “We aim to increase awareness among graduates on the links between environment and development. Some of these graduates will go on to put these lessons into practice while others will work with academics to create new evidence to support the case for ecosystem-based approaches to DRR.”

The module – funded by the European Union and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of the Government of Germany – has been pilot tested in ten CNRD universities and is already being taught at universities in Indonesia, Egypt and Germany.

“For many students, the topic of Eco-DRR is completely new. Learning how sound ecosystem management can reduce disaster risk is crucial for them as they will be the next generation of researchers and decision-makers. Our mission is to disseminate the module worldwide and implement Eco-DRR in masters programs related to disaster management, environment, and climate change adaptation,” said Dr. Udo Nehren, scientific coordinator of the CNRD.

The course examines how environment and disasters interact with each other in a number of ways – how disasters can cause massive damage to the environment, while degraded environments – and climate change – exacerbate disaster impacts. Ecosystem-based tools, such as Integrated Water Resource Management or Integrated Coastal Zone Management, can however viably counter the threats from disasters, especially if they incorporate a DRR focus.

To demonstrate the above, the course includes case studies from Brazil (the impacts of an April 2010 storm along the Rio de Janeiro coast), Egypt (the impacts of sea level rise), and Nepal (flood hazards in Central Terai), among others.

The Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR) was also a key contributor to the development of this course.


Source: UNEP.



  • Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) is the sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems to reduce disaster risk, with the aim to achieve sustainable and resilient development. Well-managed ecosystems, such as wetlands, forests and coastal systems, act as natural infrastructure, reducing physical exposure to many hazards and increasing socio-economic resilience of people and communities by sustaining local livelihoods and providing essential natural resources such as food, water and building materials.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) seeks to minimize environmental threats to human well-being from the environmental causes and consequences of conflicts and disasters. In response to increased global awareness of the environmental dimensions of crises, and to growing demand for services addressing them, UNEP has identified disasters and conflicts as one of six priority areas of work. For more information, visit
  • The Center for Natural Resources and Development (CNRD), based at the Cologne University for Applied Sciences in Germany, is a knowledge hub and network regarding issues on assessing and managing the natural resources base as prerequisite for sustainable development. For more information, visit

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