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By Jeanette ElsworthWashington, 2 August 2018 – Scientists have confirmed that 2017 was the third warmest year on record, after 2016 and 2015, in the State of the Climate Report, which examines temperature, precipitation and weather events throughout the world. The report, described as an “annual check-up for the planet” is produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the American Meteorological Society and published by AMS annually. The news comes as extreme summer temperatures continue to be felt across Europe, with some forecasts predicting that Spain and Portugal could reach as high as 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit) this weekend. The report also registered a global sea level record high in 2017, for the sixth consecutive year, and noted that flooding in places such as Hawaii, can be attributed to this as part and parcel of a “stack” of oceanographic processes. In addition to the environmental impacts such as unprecedented coral bleaching, the report notes the financial impacts of disasters over the year. Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma, all in 2017, were three of the five costliest in US history. In the United States, over 4 million hectares were destroyed in an extreme wildfire season in the west with a total cost of USD 18 billion, triple the previous annual wildfire record set in 1991. In all, sixteen disasters costing over USD1 billion each made it the country’s costliest year since at least 1980 for total losses from billion-dollar disasters.
GENEVA, 27 July, 2018 - The business professional who pioneered the Disaster Resilience Scorecard for Cities has been elected as the new co-chair of ARISE, the UNISDR private sector partnership. Dale Sands of MD Sands Consulting Solutions will serve for two years as ARISE co-chair alongside Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, and he brings a wealth of experience in studying urban resilience to his new role. ARISE currently comprises 140 members representing a broad swathe of industry and private sector interests and is committed to mobilizing the business community to implement the global plan for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. Mr. Sands said: “These are challenging times for the private sector which suffered record losses last year mainly due to extreme weather events and coping failures in the built-environment. I am pleased that this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction on October 13 is focused on reducing economic losses and I expect ARISE to rally behind that.” Mr. Sands was elected along with vice-chair, Martha Herrera, who heads up Corporate Social Responsibility at the Mexican construction giant, CEMEX, which strives to be “the world’s most efficient and innovative building materials company”. Ms. Herrera is also Director of the CEMEX-Tec Center for Sustainable Development and President of the Mexican UN Global Compact network. The election of the co-chair and vice chair completes a process of putting in place a new ten-member Advisory Board which began at the AGM held in Manila, Philippines, last November. The new leadership will work with Ms. Mizutori and UNISDR in identifying actions and projects that will build more private public partnerships in the lead up to the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in May 2019. Ms. Mizutori said: “We are very pleased to have two distinguished professionals leading ARISE.  It will be impossible to make progress on reducing economic losses and damage to critical infrastructure from disasters without the engagement of the private sector which is responsible for over 70% of investments in most economies. Private investment, if it is not risk informed, can create new disaster risk.”   Dale Sands led AECOM’s collaboration with IBM to develop a Disaster Resilience Scorecard for Cities for  UNISDR’ Making Cities Resilient Campaign which now has almost 4,000 participants. At present 200 cities are using the Disaster Resilience Scorecard which provides a set of assessments that cover policy and planning, engineering, organizational, financial, social and environmental aspects of disaster resilience at the local level. Mr. Sands was also principal investigator on evaluating resilience of small- and mid-size businesses in New Orleans eleven years after Hurricane Katrina. He is an elected official in the Village of Deer Park, Illinois, where he serves as Village President. Ms.  Herrera, a social and inclusive activist for more than twenty years, has developed more than 500 alliances and led programs that have positively impacted more than 14.1 million people globally through the creation of shared value and the improvement of well-being and quality of life in different communities around the world. “The private sector has a moral responsibility and a business imperative to reduce risky investments in many areas exposed to earthquakes, tsunamis, storm surges, floods and other hazards. We take our commitment to resilience very seriously and will do whatever we can to minimize exposure and vulnerabilities to disasters” said Martha Herrera from CEMEX. The ARISE Advisory Board comprises Fernando P Britto, AI Systems Research (AISR); Martha Patricia Herrera Gonzalez, CEMEX; Carlo Papa, Enel Foundation; Ahmed Riad Ali, Estmrarya Management Consulting; Nirankar Saxena, the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FICCI); Masato Takamatsu, JTB Tourism Research and Consulting Co.; Sandra Wu, Kokusai Kogyo Co. Ltd; Dale Sands, MD Sands Consulting Solutions LLC; Aris Papadopoulos, Titan America/STET; and Hans T. Sy, SM Prime.
By Ragy SaroNouakchott, 26 July 2018 – Five cities from Mauritania have completed disaster risk resilience assessments and have started drafting people-centred city action plans in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction – the global plan for reducing losses from disasters. The news came as local government delegates and representatives from across Mauritania came together in efforts to enhance their communities’ human security through localizing disaster risk reduction. “Today five cities in Mauritania have taken concrete steps to integrate the concept of human security in their overall city planning”, said Mr. Sujit Mohanty who heads the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s (UNISDR) Regional Office for Arab states. The efforts are part of a joint project by UNISDR and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with support of the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security focused on localizing disaster risk reduction in both Mauritania and Tunisia. The plans will take into account social, environmental, political, health and economic risks as recognized in the Sendai Framework, Mr. Mohanty added. The Framework, adopted by member states in 2015, calls for a people-centered and recognizes the need to focus on communities, and their most vulnerable members, as a crucial element to ensure their safety and security. “Community participation and engagement is very important. The aim is to save lives [and] therefore, a people-centred approach has to be taken when implementing any disaster risk reduction activity”, said Ms. Fatimatou Abdel Malick, Mayor of Tevergh Zeina and one of the beneficiary cities of the ongoing project. “Enhancing the resilience and capacities of local governments to natural hazards through the implementation of people-centered disaster risk reduction action plans will help communities overcome not only disasters but health, food, environmental and economic insecurities as well,” said Ms. Mehrnaz Mostafavi the Chief of the UN’s Human Security Unit. The project titled “Enhancing Community Resilience and Human Security of Vulnerable Communities in Urban Settings through the Implementation of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030” will run from 2017 to 2019. The project targets the cities of Boghe, Kaedi, Tevergh Zeina, Rosso, and Tintane in Mauritania, as well as Bousalem, Gabes, Kasserine, Mateur, and Siliana in Tunisia.
GENEVA, 25 July 2018 – The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, today expressed her condolences to Greece for the tragic loss of life in this week’s fires. Ms. Mizutori said: “This is a truly heartbreaking tragedy and I offer my sincere condolences to the Greek government and people at this difficult time as the search continues for the missing.” She said: “There is no doubt that fire risk is increasing around the globe driven by higher temperatures, prolonged periods of drought and expansion of housing in the wildland-urban interface. “We owe it to those who have lost their lives in Greece and elsewhere to step up efforts on wildfire suppression and prevention. Investing in disaster response and preparedness are vital to this effort considering that global losses from wildfires reached record levels last year and few parts of the world are spared from this risk as climate change multiplies the threat.” Ms. Mizutori urged that fire hazard be given due consideration in establishing national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction which are now being developed to meet the 2020 deadline of the global plan for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. In recent years the extent of burnt areas in regions such as the western United States, south-east Australia and Europe has increased dramatically. So far this year, Sweden has also experienced major wildfires and 2017 saw a high number of deadly fires in Europe, including in Portugal, Spain and Italy.
GENEVA, 23 July 2018 – The soaring rise in economic losses from extreme weather events fueled by climate change will be the focus of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction on October 13. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, said today: “Economic losses from disasters in low and middle-income countries are undermining efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and deprive governments of funds to spend on health, education, social protection and other important public needs. “Every year disasters cost the global economy an estimated US$520 billion, displacing millions of people and pushing many of them into poverty. Reducing economic losses from disasters has the power to transform lives and this will be the focus of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction on October 13, a day for celebrating success in managing disaster risk and focusing on challenges. “This is the third year of the Sendai Seven Campaign which uses International Day for Disaster Reduction to draw attention to the seven targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 which was adopted as a global plan to reduce disaster losses by UN member states. “Focusing on the economic losses resulting from extreme weather events and other hazards, will help to bring home to policymakers and those in charge of major investments in critical infrastructure, the importance of ensuring that those investment decisions are risk-informed. “If it’s not risk informed, it’s not sustainable. And if it’s not sustainable then it has a human cost. Those costs are evident in the chronic level of disaster displacement around the world. Last year an estimated 18 million people were displaced by extreme weather events.”
By Jeanette ElsworthNEW YORK, 19 July 2018 – The Sendai Framework Monitor,  launched by UNISDR in March this year, received a ringing endorsement at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) for Sustainable Development which concluded this week. The online tool, launched in March by UNISDR, benchmarks progress on reducing disaster losses and meeting the seven targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the global plan adopted in 2015 by UN Member States. In a statement to the HLPF, the 31 Member States comprising the Group of Friends for Disaster Risk Reduction, described it as: “An invaluable early-warning tool to detect whether development programs and economic strategies are being implemented in a risk-informed manner. “We encourage countries to embrace this tool, and use the Sendai Framework Monitor to incorporate disaster risk reduction in their Voluntary National Reviews.” The Sendai Framework Monitor contributed to the 46 national reviews submitted to the HLPF, as the 38 indicators for measuring progress on implementing the Sendai Framework’s seven targets also double as indicators measuring progress on key SDGs notably SDG1, eradicating poverty, SDG11, sustainable cities and communities, and SDG13, climate action. The statement was delivered by Ambassador Francisco Tenya, the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN from Peru which co-chairs the Group of Friends along with Australia, Indonesia and Norway. Ambassador Tenya also urged all countries to prioritize the achievement of Sendai Framework  target (e) which seeks to substantially increase the number of counties with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020, and to focus on raising money on disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness. “The next step would be to turn strategies into action; and innovative solutions are needed to finance disaster risk reduction.”. In his report on Progress towards the SDGs, the Secretary-General, António Guterres stated that ending poverty requires social protection systems and “targeted measures to reduce vulnerability to disasters.” In his closing statement yesterday to the eight-day HPLF, the Secretary-General recognized again the importance of resilience to achievement of the Global Goals. “For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased, mainly due to conflict, drought and disasters linked to climate change. Gender inequality continues to hold women back and deprive them of basic rights and opportunities. And investment in critical sustainable infrastructure remains entirely inadequate,” he said. Mr. Guterres concluded: “Let us demonstrate through decisive actions that the transformation demanded by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is well and truly underway. “  Membership of the Group of Friends of Disaster Risk Reduction (GoFoDRR) is comprised of: Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, China, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, Haiti, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Nauru, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Palau, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, and Thailand.
By Jeanette ElsworthNEW YORK, 17 July, 2018 – Making resilience profitable is key to ensuring that private sector investments contribute to more resilient development, according to a leading figure in US industry. Speaking at a panel discussion co-hosted by the Permanent Missions of Armenia, Colombia, Mongolia, Switzerland and UNISDR, the former CEO of Titan America, Mr Aris Papadopoulos said: “Our economic system still rewards vulnerable assets,” he said. “What do we need to do to reward resilient development instead?” He was speaking at a side event of the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development currently taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, where member states are reporting their progress against the Sustainable Development Goals on water and sanitation, clean energy, sustainable cities, responsible consumption and development, life on land, and partnerships. While offering the opportunity to report on the regional platforms hosted recently in Armenia, Colombia and Mongolia,   the discussion also highlighted  how implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reductioni – the global plan for reducing disaster losses – is central to achieving the Goals. “The world will not be able to eradicate hunger and poverty if we do not invest in disaster risk reduction,” said Jürg Lauber,  the Permanent Representative of Switzerland, whose country will host the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction next May in Geneva. Also speaking at the event, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Armenia, host of the recent Sub-regional Platform for Central Asia and the Caucasus, said: “Disasters do not respect borders. Our responses require changing trans-boundary cooperation.” Ulziisakhan Enkhtuvshin, Deputy Prime Minister for Mongolia, highlighted the main recommendations from the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction as; creating a risk knowledge management system, a whole of society approach and scaling up use of the Sendai Framework Monitor. The discussion was moderated by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori.
GENEVA, 13 July 2018 – The UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, today extended her condolences to the Government and people of Japan on the large loss of life suffered in recent days following rain and landslides. Ms. Mizutori said: “I extend my deepest sympathy to the Government and people of Japan on the loss of life and severe damage to homes and other infrastructure in this tragic disaster which reveals once more the challenges of managing disaster risk in an age of frequent extreme weather events amplified by the effects of climate change. “Japan is held up as a role model to other nations because of their highly developed disaster risk management system. As one of the most disaster-prone countries, that system is constantly tried and tested by a wide range of hazards and the government is always quick to apply the lessons learned. “This constant search for improvement is evident again now in the announcement that an investigative committee of experts and disaster management officials is to be established with a view to formulating new guidelines on early warning and evacuation procedures. This quick response has been announced while efforts of rescue and recovery are still going on. “The lessons learned from this and other similar events around the world, need to be applied if we are to succeed in reducing loss of life and the numbers of people affected by disasters. Rainfall patterns are changing and heavy precipitation events can lead to loss of life in settings which may not have experienced such events in the recent past. We must continue to focus on ensuring that the built environment is resilient and fit for purpose.” Ms. Mizutori is also head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction which supports implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the global plan for reducing disaster losses adopted by UN member states in 2015.
By Denis McCleanGENEVA, 10 July, 2018 - Australia will host the Asia Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) for the first time in 2020 and anticipates a focus on the Pacific and the work of Australia’s recently announced National Resilience Taskforce. The news was announced by Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells at the closing ceremony of the 2018 AMCDRR in Ulaanbaatar last week. The Minister said: “We will showcase the work of Australia’s National Resilience Taskforce in understanding vulnerability based on geography, exposure to hazard and social connectedness. We will shine a spotlight on the Sendai Framework’s fourth priority; in particular, how to prepare for disaster resilience.” The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 is the global plan to reduce disaster losses adopted three years ago by UN member States. She told a tale of two islands to illustrate the value of investing in disaster risk reduction. The Minister pointed out that 80% of the buildings on the main Tongan island of Tongatapu lost power following Cyclone Gita in February. On nearby ‘Eua, the Governments of Australia and Tonga, and the Asian Development Bank, had invested in resilient renewable energy generation and disaster-proofing the power grid. The result was that less than 20% of buildings lost their power and it was restored within a week using pre-positioned spare solar panels. Minister Fierravanti-Wells said: “that is a very big benefit for households, businesses, schools and health clinics. Australia is committed to this kind of collaborative work to reduce the impacts of disasters and to reduce the risks.” Recalling that Vanuatu, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Fiji are among the most risk-prone countries in the world, she highlighted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement last September of “a $300 million package to strengthen resilience in the face of climate change and natural disaster in the Pacific out to 2021.” Australia’s new National Resilience Taskforce will lead nation-wide reforms to reduce the impact and financial burden of disasters. Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor said in April that the Taskforce's first priority is to develop a five-year national disaster mitigation framework to reduce the impact of disasters. "The framework will be developed in consultation with the states and territories and the private sector, including insurance and finance, and will seek to limit risks, provide prevention strategies, and improve decision-making," Mr Taylor said. "It will also establish a national disaster risk information capability to equip decision-makers and Australians with the knowledge they need to prepare for natural disasters. "Natural disasters have cost the Australian economy on average more than $18 billion per year for the past 10 years. "As Australians we know we are lucky to live in this beautiful country, but we are also all too familiar with the disruption and devastation bush fires, cyclones, flooding and droughts can cause. "The Australian Government is committed to working with the states and territories to prepare for future disasters, and will continue to provide more than $26 million per year for Natural Disaster Resilience.”
By Patrick FullerULAANBAATAR, 9 July, 2018 - Climate change and its influence on extreme temperatures captured the attention at the closing ceremony of the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) last Friday. Extreme heat and extreme cold were the subjects of the two winning entries in the UNISDR Video Competition. The competition theme was “Preventing Disaster Risk: Protecting Sustainable Development”. Given the record-breaking temperatures across Asia and around the world, it is not surprising that one of the winners focussed on heat waves. 17-year-old Rameshwar Mihir Bhatt from India, won in the Amateur Category with his film “Waves of Heat” which highlights how heat waves affect the urban poor in his hometown of Ahmedabad which is the first city in India to make a Heat Wave Action Plan to safeguard its citizens from the impacts of temperatures which this summer have soared to 48 degrees Celsius. Since he was 13, Rameshwar has made over 80 films, many of which have been focused on environmental issues. His films have won awards from the state government of Gujarat and World Bank’s Connect4Climate group. He cares passionately about the environment and climate change and turns his films into Vlogs on YouTube. His Motto is “Keep Filming”. When making ‘Waves of Heat’, he drew inspiration from the streets of Ahmedabad filming entirely on his iPhone. After receiving his award from Mongolia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Enkhtuvshin Ulziisaikhan, Rameshwar said, “I wanted to show the impacts of the heatwave on the poorest people who live and work in the streets. They are the ones who struggle most but also find the most innovative ways to adapt and cope. In India the most active risk reducers are the poor.”  The professional category winner was an animated film called “Building community Resilience against Dzud” produced by Mercy Corps, Mongolia. The prize was accepted by Mr. Ramesh Singh, Country Director for Mercy Corps who has over 21 years of experience in managing large-scale humanitarian and DRR programs in Asia. The Dzud is a disaster unique to Mongolia in which many livestock die from either cold or starvation during the winter and early spring. The Dzud not only leads to widespread livestock losses, it has far-reaching socio-economic impacts on the livelihoods of herder families who depend solely on livestock for food and income. As the frequency and magnitude of Dzud disasters increase, new and inexperienced herders as well as urban communities are still insufficiently preparing for the winter. The film not only raises awareness of the Dzud, it advocates for the need to build disaster resilience and preparedness at the household and community level. Natalia Ilieva, Head of Secretary-General’s Office of the Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), was on the judges of the video competition, said: “This year’s entries reflect a steady improvement in the quality and the range of entries that we receive. We want to ensure that these stories, which show how communities are adapting to climate change and building their ow resilience to disasters, reach much wider audiences”.