Colombia President opens disaster risk meeting
CARTAGENA, 20 June, 2018 - Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos urged the Americas to work closely together to manage the risks the region’s countries face from disasters such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, and to build resilience in local communities most exposed to them.
Opening the three-day Vl Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas in the historic port city of Cartagena, President Santos said the meeting provided an “amazing opportunity” to share tools and ideas.
“Working together we will achieve more, we will be able to respond better,” he declared.
Over a thousand representatives of governments, civil society and the private sector will examine the increasing impact of extreme weather events and climate change, including the devastating 2017 hurricane season in the Caribbean.
They will discuss progress towards complying with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the global plan for reducing disaster losses adopted in 2015, with particular emphasis on prevention and managing the risks which trigger disasters.
Special Representative of the UN General-Secretary for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori emphasized the importance of both national and local approaches.
“The key to saving lives in potential disaster zones lies in the execution of national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction and this must include well-rehearsed and well-understood protocols for issuing early warnings and ensuring they are acted on,” she said.
Governments across the region have stepped up efforts towards disaster risk reduction. But the risks are rising, with climate change an important factor.
As the conference opened, Guatemala was still grappling with the aftermath of the deadly June 3 eruption of the Fuego volcano, which buried nearby villages under tonnes of ash and volcanic rock, possibly killing hundreds of people. The meeting observed one minute’s silence in honour of the victims.
“The death toll and the fact that the lives of over one million people have been affected is a further demonstration of why this region is so committed to implementing the Sendai Framework,“ Mizutori said.
Last year, one of the most destructive hurricane seasons on record in the Caribbean killed hundreds of people and left millions homeless or displaced. The Cartagena meeting offers the first opportunity for a multi-stakeholder regional discussion of the hurricanes, which provided a deadly reminder of the vulnerability of coastal communities to extreme weather events. The Platform will look at the extent to which the hurricane death toll was initially underestimated by not taking account of victims whose medical care was interrupted by transport failures or power outages.
The Americas is one of the regions most exposed to natural hazards, but it is also one of the most active in seeking to respond. It has agreed a regional strategy for implementing the Sendai Framework. The Framework should make a crucial contribution to meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those related to eradicating poverty, building resilient communities and action on climate change.
The regional plan aims to strengthen disaster risk information systems, including monitoring and recording of existing and potential disaster risks, strengthen disaster risk management strategies, enhance and mobilize investment in risk reduction and strengthen coordination in disaster preparedness and response.
It also recognizes the key role of civil society, academia and the scientific community in policy formation and the importance of involving women, indigenous groups and disabled people in building local resilience.
A key step in building preparedness and effective responses is measuring the impact of disasters when they occur. Sound data are essential to monitoring progress against the Sendai Framework’s seven targets, including reducing mortality, reducing the numbers of people affected by disasters, reducing economic losses and damage to critical infrastructure.
This is the first regional platform to take place since the launch in March of the Sendai Framework Monitor, which is designed to capture UN Member States’ achievement of the targets. It is also the first time that national statistics offices are sending experts to take part in a regional disaster reduction conference.
The conference hopes to trigger a significant increase in the number of countries developing both national and local strategies for disaster reduction by 2020 – a Sendai Framework target.
Nearly 2,000 cities and towns across the region are already taking part in UNISDR’s ‘Making Cities Resilient Campaign’. Enthusiasm at the local level was reflected in the success of a knowledge-sharing workshop ‘Making cities sustainable and resilient in the Americas’, held ahead of the formal opening of the Platform.