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

Challenges until last mile

The prevailing conditions of logistics and infrastructure have a crucial impact on whether an extreme natural event leads to a disaster or not. Fragile infrastructure, such as dilapidated buildings, can have grave consequences because they pose a direct threat for the local population. Moreover, it delays the effective potential for those affected to help themselves and impedes humanitarian relief provided by the local authorities or from abroad. The difficulties that relief agencies face are mostly 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.

Information technology like the Internet, mobile phones or 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 infrastructure. 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.

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)