Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Killer Year caps deadly decade - reducing disaster impact not an option, says UN SRSG Margareta Wahlström

2010 tied for the warmest year on record, and ranks as one of the deadliest in two decades for natural disasters, with the Haiti earthquake and the Russian heat wave driving total deaths to nearly 300,000. $109 billion was spent on dealing with disasters in 2010 - money which could have been invested in helping vulnerable communities cope with poverty, climate change and other development deterrants. With the scale of these statistics coming in to cap this deadly decade... disaster risk reduction (DRR) is no longer 'an option'.

Speaking from Geneva, Margareta Wahlström, UN Special Representative to the Secretary General said,
"These figures are bad, but could be seen as benign in years to come...Unless we act now, we will see more and more disasters due to unplanned urbanization and environmental degradation. And weather-related disasters are sure to rise in the future, due to factors that include climate change."
When will we think ahead and begin to really work together well? It does seem that what was once an issue that may have been in the margins is now becoming mainstreamed into public conscience - and into development mechanisms at national, international and local levels... but this is happening far too slowly and these good cases are too few in comparison with the scale of the problem. Among the critical issues now are to bring DRR into mainline development budgeting and implementation processes at these various levels, and to bring all the stakeholders around the table to truly make reducing risk 'everybody's business' - rather than the business of disaster managers or civil protection or "specialists". Everyone has a role to play in becoming aware and being prepared, in reaching out during disasters, and in their aftermath to build back better. Speaking on the importance of key actors in this process, Ms. Wahlstrom said,
"It’s critical for local governments, city leaders and their partners to incorporate climate change adaptation in urban planning,” Ms. Wahlström said, stressing that disaster risk reduction was “no longer optional”. “What we call ‘disaster risk reduction’ – and what some are calling ‘risk mitigation’ or ‘risk management’ – is a strategic and technical tool for helping national and local governments to fulfill their responsibilities to citizens.”

A recent press release by the UNISDR draws on research provided by CRED on disaster trends - which hopefully are a wakeup call for us all to our own role in building resilience both at home and abroad.

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