UNISDR chief meets children on risk

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Asia and Pacific

YOGYAKARTA, 24 October 2012 - UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlström today met with children from four of the world's most disaster-prone countries Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines, who shared with her their views on the implementation of the five-point Children's Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction.

After listening to the group of 18 children, Ms. Wahlström said she was hopeful there would be a children's forum at the 2015 World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan.

"The important message I am hearing from you today is that you are ready to participate not just in planning disaster risk reduction activity but also in implementation and you have many concrete ideas. I thank you all for your contribution," she said.

Vita (14) from Bandang in West Java told Ms. Wahlström that children were particularly concerned about the right to participate in disaster risk reduction activity and access to information.

Vita and her friend Arlian (14), classmates at the Bandung 11 Junior High School, worked together on a colourful poster based on their first-hand experience of the disaster threat of living in a city which is often hit by earthquake tremors and is situated in an active volcanic region.

"We have regular earthquake simulation exercises at our High School which is good," said Vita. "For us the most important thing is access to school and being able to express our aspirations. We want to be heard and involved in doing disaster risk reduction with adults."

Mark (14) from Oras, Eastern Samar, the Philippines, briefed Ms. Wahlström on the principle that schools must be safe and education must not be interrupted as a result of disasters. He pointed out that disasters often disrupt children's schooling in the absence of building codes or suitable alternative arrangements.

Sopheurn (17) from Cambodia stressed that child protection must be a priority before, during and after a disaster. At the school she attends in Srey Snam district, Siam Reap, there is now a disaster management committee run by the children with a rotating leadership.

Billy (13) from Maumere, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, addressed the issue of safe community infrastructure and how important it is that affected infrastructure such as roads and schools are built back better following disasters.

Three Japanese High School students, Yuto (15), Eri (15) and Yuno (16) drew on their experience of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in Sendai to stress the importance of ensuring that disaster risk reduction reaches the most vulnerable and takes account of their particular needs.

The group of children was brought together by the NGO coalition Children in A Changing Climate - with the support of unicef - to promote implementation of the Children's Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction launched in Geneva last year at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction. Their views will be included in an annex to the Ministerial Conference Declaration due to be issued tomorrow.

The children also participated in a press conference today to mark the launch by UNISDR and Plan International of the Report Children's Action for Disaster Risk Reduction featuring essays from children across Asia.

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