The meeting was held as part of a series of launch event for the Report in different regions of the world.
The Director-General began his intervention by noting: “Natural disaster risk is on the rise. The dramatic increase in human and economic losses from disasters in recent years is alarming. Increased vulnerability and climate change are exacerbating the exposure of populations to natural hazards”. He also highlighted that natural disasters often strike hardest at some of the world’s poorest communities, which are the least well placed to defend themselves or to recover afterwards.
Mr Matsuura underscored that many natural disasters could be greatly mitigated with adequate forethought and preparation, and that the cost of this would be small compared to the cost of relief and recovery efforts. The Director-General illustrated this point by recalling the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004, which left close to 230,000 dead and displaced a staggering 1.5 million people. He argued that the scale of the losses was largely due to the absence of regional and national tsunami warning systems such as the one for the Pacific coordinated since 1965 by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). He noted that UNESCO had long advocated the need to extend the system to other oceans where there is a risk of tsunamis. Since then, progress has been made since the IOC is now coordinating the establishment of regional tsunami warning systems in the Indian Ocean, the North East Atlantic, Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
The Director-General underlined the importance of human preparedness: “In hazard-prone areas, everybody, from the youngest to the oldest inhabitant, needs both to be aware of risks and prepared for disasters. This includes public information and education campaigns and clear procedures for emergency response.”
Mr Matsuura also emphasized that today, scientific knowledge enables us to develop the tools for building resilient societies, able not only to react to disasters, but also to plan for, prevent and mitigate their effects. He argued that “we need to make a major conceptual shift from a focus on disaster response, to an emphasis on disaster prevention.”
The Director-General went on to highlight UNESCO’s work in the area of disaster risk reduction, be it in the area of oceans, floods, earthquakes and landslides, and underscored the importance of the international community addressing these issues together, through such frameworks as the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). He called on all present to “renew our commitment to the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015”, noting that this Framework represented an agreed road map for the international community to pursue measures for promoting disaster resilience.
Mr Matsuura concluded his intervention by renewing UNESCO’s commitment to continue working closely with the ISDR as a member of the UN system in order to achieve the objectives of the Hyogo Framework for Action, and through this, healthier, more secure and prosperous societies.
For her part, Ms Wahlström observed the increase in disasters over the past years, notably in the most vulnerable areas of the world, highlighting the importance of addressing ‘Disaster Risk Reduction’ as a development challenge and the significance of education and human preparedness for disasters. She underscored that the 2009 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction was indeed a cooperative effort of the whole UN system, including UNESCO.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 108-2009 - Publication Date: 10-06-2009