Asia-Pacific nations agree on disaster readiness strategy at UN-backed forum

Rescue workers arrive at the scene of the Mount Merapi volcano in Indonesia

28 October 2010 – Recognizing the vulnerability of their region to natural disasters, 50 countries across Asia and the Pacific today agreed at a United Nations-backed conference to make risk reduction a component of their national climate change adaptation policies to cope with extreme weather events.

The decision, made at the conclusion of the Fourth Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Incheon, Republic of Korea, came in the wake of the double disasters of a tsunami and a volcano eruption in Indonesia earlier in the week.

The two disasters left hundreds of people dead and forced thousands of others to flee their homes. Last week cyclone Giri caused heavy flooding in Myanmar and Thailand affecting tens of thousands of people.

Delegates at the conference approved a five-year regional roadmap to establish climate resilient disaster risk management systems by 2015. The scheme is also intended to foster sustainable development at the regional, national and community levels.

“This is the first time that governments agree at a regional level to recognize disaster risk reduction as a main tool to adapt to climate change and adopt a common regional climate risk management approach to reduce weather-related disaster impacts,” said Margareta Wahlström, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The roadmap, known as the Incheon REMAP, focuses on three main themes – raising awareness and building capacities of communities to better cope with more weather-related hazards; sharing information through new technologies and sound practices in climate and disaster risk management; and promoting integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as part of sustainable development policies.

“I believe that the REMAP can become a guideline for all nations in the region and beyond to follow as a way to contribute to effective disaster reduction and climate change adaptation,” said M. Park Yeon-soo, Administrator of Korea’s National Emergency Management Agency, which hosted the ministerial conference.

The roadmap calls for more regional training and research programmes in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, and highlights the need to develop an information-sharing platform. It also includes an outline of the steps that need to be taken to attain its objectives.

A final declaration of the conference urges governments to use the five remaining years of the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action – the global plan to build the resilience of nations and communities by 2015 – to accelerate their commitments to reduce human and economic losses resulting from disasters.

The declaration also calls on States and the international donor community to invest more in disaster risk reduction and to step up funding for regional and national disaster risk reduction activities.

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