The WorldRiskReport

Whether it be an earthquake or a tsunami, a cyclone or floods, the risk of a natural event turning into a disaster always depends only partly on the force of the natural event itself. The living conditions of the people in the regions affected and the options available to respond quickly and toprovide assistance are just as significant.

Those who are prepared, who know what to do in the event of an extreme natural event, have a greater chance of survival. Countries that see natural hazards coming, that are preparing for the consequences of climate change and are providing the financial means required will be better prepared for the future. The WorldRiskReport should contribute to look at these links at a global level and draw future-oriented conclusions regarding assistance measures, policies and reporting.

As an essential part of the WorldRiskReport, the WorldRiskIndex, created by United Nations Universitys Institute for Environment and Human Security, indicates the risk of disaster in consequence of exreme natural events for 171 countrys.

Risk in a state of flux

Until recently, humans were rarely the direct cause of extreme natural events. But as a result of their interference in the natural world, they have increased the potential risk massively. The destruction of mangrove forests and coral reefs – along the Southeast Asian coastline, for example – has reduced levels of protection against tidal waves and flooding. The clearing of mountain forest intensifies the rate of soil erosion and, consequently, the scale of flooding, as has been witnessed in Pakistan. Climate change and the increasingly frequent occurrence of “climate extremes” exacerbate this threat on an ongoing basis and increase the vulnerability of societies. The WorldRiskReport’s concept of “risk” is not solely based on the probability of occurrence of natural hazards and their severity, rather it also considers human living conditions and the development status of society. Preparedness and the ability to react and help quickly determine whether extreme natural events become disasters. The WorldRiskIndex, as a component of the WorldRiskReports, is created on the basis of a nuanced understanding of disaster, and calculates the risk posed to 171 countries worldwide by means of a multiplication of risk and vulnerability. This allows for the parameters of the risk assessment to be expanded. The present report for 2017 is a five-year analysis of the reports from 2012 to 2016 that prepares the groundwork for the further development of the WorldRiskIndex. As a general rule, the following applies to the risk level of all countries: A nation that possesses sufficient financial resources and functioning national and civil-societal structures, that confronts recurring natural events with an adaptive strategy and that is prepared to invest in measures to adapt to changing conditions such as weather and climate extremes, will be less adversely impacted by natural events.

Humanitäre Logistik bis zur „letzten Meile“

Grafik in 3 Schritten

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The WorldRiskIndex calculates the risk for 171 countries worldwide on the basis of the following four components:

  • Exposure to natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, drought and sea-level rise
  • Vulnerability as dependent on infrastructure, nutrition, living conditions and economic circumstances
  • Coping capacities as dependent on governance, preparedness and early warning measures, access to healthcare, social and material security
  • Adapting capacities with respect to impending natural events, climate change and other challenges.

The concept of the WorldRiskIndex, including its modular structure, has been developed by both practical experts on the ground, and scientific experts located further afield. The calculation of the index, which was performed by the Institute for Environment and Human Security of the United Nations University (UNU-EHS) in the years 2011 to 2016 and commissioned by Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft, relies on datasets that are available worldwide. The world’s nation states form the reference parameter for the index.

  • The WorldRiskIndex serves to provide answers to the following questions:
  • How probable is an extreme natural event and will it impact human beings?
  • How vulnerable is the population of a country to natural hazards
  • To what extent can societies cope with acute disasters?
  • Is a society taking disaster preparedness measures against natural hazards that are expected in the future?

The representation produced using the index and its four components provides answers to these questions and brings into focus both the problems and the resulting fields of action.


Worldmap of Risk

Average 2012 – 2016

  • very low
    0,08 - 3,46
  • low
    3,47 - 5,46
  • middle
    5,47 - 7,30
  • high
    7,31 - 10,39
  • very high
    10,40 - 36,72
  • no data

Calculation of Risk


Topic overview

Logistics and Infrastructure

During extreme natural events, a fragile infrastructure can have grave consequences. It can pose a direct threat for the local population. In addition, it delays the effective potential for those affected to help themselves and impedes humanitarian relief provided by the local authorities or from abroad. Usually, the difficulties that relief agencies face are on the “last mile” of the logistics chain: Organizing transportation despite ruined roads or bridges, and ensuring fair distribution when, for example, there is a scarcity of water, food and shelter.

This is where information technology like the Internet or mobile phones as well as more recent technology such as drones or 3D printers, can support humanitarian logistics – that is, if they have not been impaired by a collapsed local power supply. But technology-based solutions aside, there still remains a host of challenges: examples include supporting self-help measures, coordinating the involved actors, making use of local resources, and the controversial issue of cooperation with the private sector and armed forces.

Food security and risk evaluation

Disasters can have devastating impacts on a country’s food security – not only in the short term, but also long after they have occurred. They destroy harvests, stocks, and transport routes, and therefore above all the livelihoods of those depending on agriculture. However, the reverse is true as well. It is not unusual for extreme natural events to turn into disasters because the population affected is particularly vulnerable due to a poor food situation. In the worst case, the combined effect of disasters and food insecurity leads to a fatal downward spiral, with the people hit slipping from one crisis into the next. A world without hunger would therefore also mean fewer disasters.

The city as a risk area

Urbanization is one of the megatrends of our times – and as such it bears a vast complexity. While the pull of the cities often creates problems for rural regions in the industrialized countries, massive urban population growth is posing great challenges for the metropolises in many developing countries. For often enough, the growth of cities exceeds the capacity of authorities to develop and maintain adequate social and physical infrastructure. One of the most pressing results is the formation of marginal settlements in which urban dwellers lack basic civil rights and often compete for ill-paid jobs and low food availability. They are especially vulnerable towards natural hazards. But urbanization does not produce exclusively negative effects on vulnerability, it can also create new chances for strengthening coping and adaptive mechanisms. Given the thematic focus “The city as a risk area”, the WorldRiskReport 2014 separately assesses the risk for urban areas.

Health and Healthcare

Whether it be drought, cyclone, earthquake or floods, when an extreme natural event hits a village or a town, the vulnerability of the society crucially depends on the population’s health status as well as the health care and its functioning in crisis and disaster situations. But in times of the global financial crisis, the health systems worldwide are being subjected even more strongly to economic principles. Often humans facing an already unacceptable vulnerability suffer the most from these austerity and privatization measures. The other way around extreme natural events can cause direct health problems like heart and circulation problems and contribute to an increase and spread of disease carriers. A comprehensive approach to strengthening health systems and care therefore shows to be indispensable for disaster preparedness and response.

Environmental degradation and disasters

Disasters can have considerable effects on the environment and cause damage for ecosystems. Cyclones can pull over thousands of trees and destroy coral reefs or floods can contribute to erosions and damage solum. In turn, the destruction of the environment and its natural protective function in pursuit of economic interests increases the risk of disaster in the wake of extreme natural events. Flooded coastal villages and washed away beaches whose natural protective belt of mangroves has been chopped down are just some examples among many others. This interaction between environmental destruction and disasters still gets too little attention by politics and science. Environmental protection and a sustainable handling of the environment should be strengthened from the local to the global level and included in disaster preparedness.

Governance and civil society

Humans can only influence to a limited degree whether, and with what intensity, natural events are to occur. But states can considerable influence the extent of a disaster by their governance in disaster preparedness and response. Especially states of weak governance are often not able to implement consistent strategies and measures and maintain mechanism to reduce the disaster risks. The vulnerability of the population is consequently high. In the complex interaction between governance and disasters, civil society can play an active role by demanding responsible and effective state policies and starting initiatives for disaster risk reduction.

Experts at topics of logistics and infrastructure


Reports as PDF

  • WorlRiskReport 2017
  • WorldRiskReport 2016
  • WorldRiskReport_2015-prev
  • WorldRiskReport_2014-prev
  • WorldRiskReport_2013-prev
  • WorldRiskReport_2012-prev
  • WorldRiskReport_2011-prev

Graphics and Illustrations

  • WM1- Food insecurity in exposed countries
  • Figure 6- Selected island states among countries with very high risk in the WorldRiskIndex 2012 – 2016
  • web-Figure-5--Comparison-by-country-group-(data-based-on-WorldRiskIndex-2012 – 2016)
  • Figure 4- Calculation of the WorldRiskIndex (from WorldRiskReport 2016)
  • web-Figure-3--Downward-spiral-caused-by-insufficient-disaster-management
  • web-Figure-2--Disaster-management-cycle
  • Figure 1- The WorldRiskIndex and its components
  • WorldRiskIndex People
  • What Does
  • Global Hotspot
  • Component

Graphics and illustrations (Archive)

  • WRR2016_Fig3-engl
  • WorlRiskIndex 2016
  • WRR2016_Fig1-engl
  • Humanitarian logistic to the last mile
  • Logistic and infrastructure
  • WRR2016_Fig7-engl
  • 2015-Emergency-ration-South-Sudan
  • 2015-Food-Insecurity-in-Exposed-Countries
  • 2015-How-Disasters-Amplify-Hunger
  • 2015-Securing-Food-Supplies---Preventing-Disasters
  • 2015-Share-Of-Undernourished-Worldwide
  • 2014-City-Growht-Worldwide
  • 2014-Distribution-of-World-Population
  • 2014-Total-Number-of-Inhabitants-in-Cities
  • 2014-Urban-Population-Growth-Until-2050
  • 2013-Hygiene-and-Child-Mortality
  • 2013-Money-and-Health
  • 2012-Reefs-at-Risk---People-at-Risk
  • 2012-Natural-Coastal-Protection