Cities must use full spectrum of local resource to mitigate flood risks, says senior UN official

Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction Margareta Wahlström (right) being interviewed at the United Cities and Local Governments Congress in Rabat, Morocco. Photo: UNISDR

4 October 2013 – Increased urban flooding poses a direct threat to the wellbeing of metropolitan areas unless cities use more fully the complete panoply of local resources to mitigate disaster risks, according to a senior United Nations official.

“More needs to be done to address underlying drivers of disaster risk such as better planning regulations, better management of local ecosystems and better access to risk knowledge on the ground.” UN Assistant Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction Margareta Wahlström told the Fourth United Cities and Local Governments Congress that ended in Rabat, Morocco, today.

“Successful and safe cities of the future will see more partnerships based on the perspectives of those communities and disaster managers at the local level. “They are the ones who face the biggest challenges and often have the fewest resources. The dynamism and creativity of cities means that many of the solutions to reduce disaster risk, particularly from the increasing threat of floods, are within their grasp.”

Last year 116 million people around the world were affected by floods and many millions were forced to flee their homes.

Ms. Wahlström, who heads the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), highlighted the progress many municipalities have made within UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient Campaign, launched in May 2010, which now has more than 1,500 members.

The 10 essential points in this campaign include the participation of citizen groups and civil society, building local alliances, and ensuring that all departments understand their role to disaster risk reduction and preparedness and that information and plans are readily available to the public.

Other planks call for investing in critical infrastructure such as flood drainage, upgrading the safety of schools and health facilities, enforcing building and land use regulations, providing training on disaster risk reduction in schools and local communities, protecting ecosystems and natural buffers to mitigate floods and storm surges, and installing early warning systems and emergency management capacities.

The Congress saw more than 3,000 delegates converge on the Moroccan capital to emphasize the growing influence of city and local leadership.


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