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Time to get serious with disaster risk reduction

By Ioan Voicu - posted Tuesday, 23 June 2015


On June 3, the 193 members of the United Nations (UN) adopted by consensus a UN General Assembly resolution titled "Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030."

Regrettably, this significant global document has received modest attention in the mass media.

The resolution is the main outcome of the third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR), which was the highest-level specialized meeting on natural calamities in the history of multilateral diplomacy. Indeed, over 100 world leaders and ministers, including 25 heads of state and government and dozens of ministers, representing 187 countries, attended the Sendai Conference in Japan, while around 40,000 persons participated in about 350 interesting side events.

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The deliberations and the major outcome of the WCDRR are considered to be of vital interest for millions of people around the world. Official data illustrate tragic realities: Over a 10-year period, natural disasters had catastrophic consequences on more than 700,000 people who lost their lives, over 1.4 billion injured and over 23 million left homeless. More than 1.5 billion people overall were affected by disasters, with women, children and other vulnerable persons disproportionately harmed.

It was pointed out during the deliberations that the total economic loss was more than $1.3 trillion. Moreover, between 2008 and 2012, 144 million people were displaced by disasters. It was generally recognized that disasters, many of which are exacerbated by the negative impact of climate change, are increasing both in frequency and intensity and seriously impede progress towards sustainable development. In this regard, Asia has the sad reputation of being the world's most disaster-prone continent. In addition, there is even no regionally agreed set of statistics in Asia about what really constitutes a natural disaster or how to properly account and assess the terrible consequences of disasters on population.

From its inaugural session, the WCDRR was persuasively invited by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to act in a spirit of global solidarity to make our world safer for all. It should be recalled that in accordance with the consistent UN doctrine, solidarity and moral responsibility must be the guiding light of national and international policy. These are not just ethical imperatives, but also prerequisites for a prosperous, peaceful and secure world based on true partnership.

Practice shows that in some cases solidarity is promptly demonstrated by many states who offer generous assistance to countries devastated by natural or man-made disasters. The global reaction to the national tragedy generated by the terrible earthquakes in Nepal has illustrated the fact that solidarity is alive.

However, many solidarity actions are not sufficiently organized and coordinated at the global level. This is the reason for which the Sendai Conference estimated that in the context of increasing global interdependence, concerted international cooperation, an enabling international environment and an adequate means of implementation are needed to stimulate and contribute to developing the necessary knowledge, capacities and motivation for disaster risk reduction at all levels, in particular in the case of developing countries.

Seven global goals

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Tragedies produced by natural disasters are clear proof that global solidarity must not be understood as a simple pumping of funds to alleviate the suffering of the victims of calamities. Developed countries are expected and requested to use in a more efficient way their technical potential in the detection, early warning and adequate management of naturally-caused emergencies.

The 25-page "Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030" is a comprehensive strategic document containing seven global goals. It aims to "substantially" reduce global disaster mortality, the number of victims and the volume of economic losses in terms of global gross domestic product by 2030.

Consensus was achieved in order to reduce disaster damage, enhance support for disaster-prone developing economies and increase the number of countries that have disaster risk reduction strategies and early-warning systems.

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About the Author

Dr Ioan Voicu is a Visiting Professor at Assumption University in Bangkok

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