19 July 2010 The United Nations has completed a first-of-its-kind assessment of disaster risk reduction efforts in the Dominican Republic, recommending that the Caribbean nation strengthen building codes as part of its efforts to mitigate the impact of hurricanes and other hazards.
The assessment, carried out in May by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and its partners, examined the country’s efforts in implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action, a 10-year plan to make the world safer from disasters triggered by natural hazards, which was adopted by governments in 2005.
That plan provides national authorities with a blueprint to assess and reduce risks through planning, training and better public education. Ensuring that key facilities such as hospitals, schools and other public infrastructure meet certain safety standards is among the ways this can be done.
This was the first time a country asked the UN to conduct an independent assessment of its own disaster risk reduction efforts.
“This exercise demonstrates the Government’s goodwill and commitment in fulfilling its obligations to people of the Dominican Republic,” said Margareta Wahlström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, as she presented the report today in the capital, Santo Domingo.
“Because the report represents the shared view of many experts within and outside the United Nations, it can also be used by the Government to rally political support,” she noted.
In addition to strengthening building codes, the report also recommended incorporating “vulnerability reduction” targets in projects funded by both the public and private sector, and tightening norms for designing public infrastructure, including procedures used in determining where structures are physically located.
It also suggested that the Government review – and where needed, develop – by-laws and norms for construction, whether national or local, to include considerations of risk. Public and private investment projects should also incorporate aspects of vulnerability reduction, it added.
In addition, the report recommended that the Dominican Republic – which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti – adopt an “island approach” to disaster assessment, and consider joint intervention for disaster mitigation.
“The two countries share areas that can be affected by the same kinds of hazards, which they should approach in bilateral fashion,” said Ricardo Mena, Chief of the UNISDR regional office for the Americas, based in Panama City. “In terms of hurricane alert systems, they can exchange information on when a hurricane will hit border areas.”
While in Santo Domingo, Ms. Wahlström also spoke about the Making Cities Resilient campaign, which began in May and is spearheaded by UNISDR and other partners. So far, 59 cities have joined the campaign, including 12 from the Americas.
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