|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development Should Be Closely Linked,
Say Global Platform Speakers in Geneva
GENEVA, 21 May (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) ‑ The global consequences of disasters, and the need for strengthening resilience through partnerships and investment, were stressed at the opening ceremony of the fourth session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, held in Geneva this morning.
Martin Dahinden, Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, said the Platform provided an opportunity to draw on lessons learned from the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) for 2005-2015, which outlined the work required from all sectors and actors to reduce disaster losses. The Platform would also continue consultations on a post-2015 framework ‑ the HFA2 ‑ that is expected to strengthen cooperation and foster better resilience to disasters. In keeping with those processes, some 140 countries are now reviewing their implementation of national programmes of action adopted within the HYA, and most of them have made disaster reduction a national priority, he noted.
“Security and safety are not free,” said Ueli Maurer, President of Switzerland, but were worth the cost in order to save lives, guarantee means of subsistence and protect property. Expressing his country’s condolences to the victims of the tornado that had struck Oklahoma just a few hours earlier, he said that disasters were of concern to everyone, no matter where they occurred. The post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction should consider the issues in a more global context, taking account of environmental concerns and broader development goals, including resilience at the national, regional and local levels. It should also involve better coordination of food security and natural resource management.
Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said that waiting for catastrophes to strike before taking action was neither acceptable nor tenable; it was like sending a fire truck to a house that had already burned down. Disasters such as the Oklahoma tornado posed a host of challenges when they struck developed countries, but were even more dangerous in the developing world, especially in least developed countries and small island developing States, which faced the additional burden of climate change. He stressed the cross-cutting nature of disaster risk reduction, which was essential to reaching the Millennium Development Goals and which should also be part of a new global approach to sustainable development. The United Nations was accordingly stepping up its support to countries through a joint plan of action to reduce disaster risk and build resilience. This week’s meeting should also help to mobilize political momentum in the run-up to the 2015 World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction.
Marco Mukoso Hausiku, Deputy Prime Minister of Namibia, said the current session of the Global Platform was a time to assess the achievements of the Hyogo Framework for Action, which had helped change mindsets and had marked a shift in focus from crisis management to disaster risk reduction and safety. Warning that global efforts at poverty reduction could be reversed if the direct economic losses from disasters continued to rise, he said the world was a “global village” in which floods and droughts sometimes struck the same countries at the same time. No single organization or country could reduce the risk of disasters on their own; cooperation was required across all sectors, with the private sector particularly significant. “We owe it to our children, and to our children’s children, to ensure a safer tomorrow,” he said.
Creating a safer world and a resilient planet had to involve training people and societies at the local level, said Marisa Helena do Nascimento Morais, Minister of Home Affairs of Cape Verde. But with high-impact disasters on the rise, particularly because of pressure for rapid economic growth, the world should not lose sight of local disasters, which tended to affect developing countries disproportionately, contributing to impoverishment and negative economic growth. She commended the efforts by such regional organizations as Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union to help Africa and to bring those concerns onto the international agenda. Developing countries, especially small island developing States like Cape Verde, were more vulnerable to the impact of climate change and development. Despite the benefits it was deriving from economic development, largely through tourism, Cape Verde was also paying the costs, in terms of excessive use of water, pollution and heavy investment in urban infrastructure. The country was, however, planning ahead, and by 2020 hoped to be in a much better position to master the challenges. It also paid particular attention to the most vulnerable groups of society and to gender sensitivity.
Nikki Kaye, Minister of Civil Defence of New Zealand, recounted her country’s response to the earthquakes that struck Canterbury and Christchurch in 2010 and 2011. Not just infrastructure had been rebuilt, but entire communities as well. Thanks to 40 years’ experience, building standards were relatively high, and a culture prevailed of managing risks rather than hazards. The earthquakes had taken a severe toll on the economy, with costs of $40 billion, equivalent to more than 20 per cent of the country’s GDP, but the economy had been held together largely through the deployment of emergency subsidies, which also helped keep people employed. The Government was investing heavily in earthquake science, an adequate insurance cover, and training a volunteer work force. Other lessons which it was now putting into practice were to build on existing networks and to better harness social media, with a special focus on youth. New Zealand also believed strongly in sharing its science, information and skills with other nations, and was working to build disaster management capability throughout the Pacific.
Graciela Ortúzar, Mayor of Lampa, Chile, described how local government had helped cope with the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that struck her city. The Lampa government, which took pride in its closeness to people and their communities, had implemented disaster risk reduction and built resilience at the family level through a programme called “Mi familia se prepara” (my family is getting ready). The international strategy for disaster reduction had been of great help, but it should be reinforced. Local governments in different regions, along with research centres, universities and NGOs, should be encouraged to invest in training, and should draw on science and technology at the local level. Climate change, resilience and sustainable development formed a triad that should be dealt with holistically. The post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction should focus on building resilience from the grass roots level on up, with various levels of government collaborating rather than competing for the sake of future generations.
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