After Sandy world weighs in on disaster risk reduction

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - New York UNHQ Liaison Office

NEW YORK, 9 November 2012 - Development cannot be sustainable if it does not incorporate disaster risk reduction was a key message by Member States yesterday as the UN General Assembly's Second Committee (Economic and Financial Committee) began its two-day meeting on the issue of moving sustainable development forward.

In light of that key message, Member States welcomed the upcoming 2015 World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction to be hosted in Japan, where it is expected that a post-2015 framework on disaster risk reduction will be adopted.

Many Groups and Member States, including the Group of 77 developing countries and China, Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Pakistan, Malaysia, Ethiopia and Egypt stressed that "climate change is one of the most serious global challenges of our times." It not only threatened the sustainability of development but the very existence of some nation states, particularly Small Island States.

The very real threat posed by climate change and disasters to development is an idea that resonated throughout the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable in June this year. Yesterday it was repeated forcefully, this time with the backdrop of super storm Sandy's devastation of the eastern seaboard of the United States and Caribbean nations.

It also reflected the converging of UN Member States following the presentation at the beginning of the meeting of the Secretary-General's report on the Implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction which was presented by Margareta Wahlström who is his Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

In the wake of Sandy's devastation, Member States called for increased efforts towards resilience and implementation of key recommendations around sustainability from Rio+20.

Concerns raised during the meeting made it evident that countries are aware of their direct stake in the global bolstering of efforts for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. There was also widespread agreement that sustainability was a challenge that must be faced holistically across multiple spheres -- social, economic and environmental.

The representative of Thailand, a country that was one of the most devastated by floods in 2011, warned that as the world becomes more and more interdependent, the impact of disasters would become increasingly pronounced and substantial gains in sustainable development would be reversed overnight. This frightening threat underpinned the importance of incorporating disaster risk reduction in the post-2015 development agenda.

The representative of Japan, another nation with a recent experience of a mega disaster said the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the country in March 2011 was one of the five most powerful earthquakes since 1900. Yet, despite the scale of the earthquake, the damage was minimised due to strong building codes and effective early warning systems. Japan therefore wanted to continue sharing the lessons learned in 2011 with the international community.

Haiti's Representative, drew attention to the devastating impact of the 2010 Haitian earthquake and stated that that putting a strategy in place for disaster risk reduction based on the Hyogo Framework of Action (2005-2015) -- Building the Resilience of Communities and Nations to Disasters, had became a crucial national priority.

The Group of 77 and China, reiterated full support for the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and the coordination and policy guidance efforts of UNISDR. The group pointed to the need for better risk management systems and better decision making which in turn required the development of disaster loss accounting, and risk modelling to guide smart public and private investments.

The European Union stated that the creation of resilience strategies to reduce vulnerabilities would be a key objective of European development cooperation and humanitarian aid to the developing world. In this endeavour, tools such as geospatial information, risk- and hazard-mapping would be indispensable.

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