Data on disasters around the world reveal greater seriousness in countries with lower social and economic development levels. In this context, disaster risk-reduction and resilience-building policies are priorities in the sustainable development agenda, featuring among the topics selected for the Rio+20 Summit. By means of a contribution of a conceptual nature and from examples of disasters in countries with different development levels, namely the Haiti earthquake and the torrential rains in the mountain range close to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the scope of this article is to demonstrate how socio-environmental vulnerability creates conditions for disasters, while at the same time limiting strategies for their prevention and mitigation. Lastly, some of the measures that disaster risk reduction and resilience-building demand in a socio-environmental vulnerability context are highlighted. These involve changes in the current patterns of social, economic and environmental development geared toward ecological sustainability and social justice as pillars of sustainable development.
natural disasters; socio-environmental vulnerability; risk reduction; resilience-building