Day for Disaster Reduction
Message by H. E. Jan Kavan, President of the 57th Session of
the General Assembly
9 October 2002
day has been set aside by the United Nations for the world to
reflect on how we are doing to protect people and the environment
from the impact of disasters. Unfortunately there is no reason
to assume that the frequency of disasters is going to decrease
in the future. Rather the opposite is true. Natural hazards
will always be a challenge to human communities, who have to
decide about the best possible use of their limited resources
through selecting appropriate strategies to avoid or mitigate
the consequences of disasters, whether economical or humanitarian.
Furthermore, the trans-boundary character of many disasters
is forcing the international community to cooperate together
During the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction
of the United Nations in the 90's, we have learned that the
most desirable response to disasters and consequent damage is
to follow the precautionary approach of disaster prevention
as we can clearly see now in the work of the International Strategy
for Disaster Reduction. We are more and more involved in the
process of formulating pragmatic solutions with the aim to protect
the large communities living in areas and regions of the world
that are vulnerable to natural disasters.
The World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg
has underlined, once again, that scientific research and its
application, play a key role in providing us with crucial information
about the earth's environment. Furthermore, this information
is an important tool to foster disaster prevention and preparedness.
Therefore, it is necessary to continue to support and strengthen
international joint observation whether through surface-based
monitoring or through increased use of satellite data; as well
as to improve methodologies and techniques for assessing the
dynamics of earth's ecosystems, especially in regard to climate
change. Availability of such information is the key element
for early warning systems to enables us to save lives.
The need to formulate and implement national disaster reduction
strategies and policies provides a practical test of good governance.
The way, in which any public administration is able to manage
the prevention or mitigation of disaster, can significantly
increase or decrease the degree of vulnerability of different
communities and of human settlements. Weak or inadequate environmental
and safety standards can have a very negative influence on the
outcome of disasters.
The international community also has a big responsibility in
the process of disaster reduction through assisting the developing
countries in capacity building and other related aspects. Even
more important is the urgent need for collaboration amongst
Member States of the United Nations to address the issue of
major environmental threats like global climate change. However
there are also positive signs. As I have personally seen during
the floods in my country, there are several very visible examples
of cooperation in the field of post-disaster help and mitigation
throughout the international community. This gives me hope concerning
the future coordinated global efforts to decrease human, environmental,
economic and social losses from disasters.