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By Brigitte LeoniPARIS, 17 October, 2018 - A meeting to raise tsunami awareness opened with one minute’s silence yesterday in memory of the 2,000 confirmed dead and 5,000 missing in the tsunami and earthquake which struck Indonesia on September 28. The double disaster left almost 70,000 people homeless in the Indonesian cities of Palu and Donggala in Central Sulawesi. Estimates of the economic losses are US$530 million and more than 65,000 homes and 2,700 schools were destroyed, according to the Indonesian Ambassador to France, Mr. Hotmangaradja Pandjaitan, speaking on a High Level Panel convened at UNESCO HQ on reducing human and economic impacts from tsunamis. The High Panel discussion was organized jointly by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO ahead of World Tsunami Awareness Day on November 5. “The world is safer today against tsunamis. Many early warning systems have been established since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami not only in the Indian Ocean, but also in the Caribbean and the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean,” said Dr. Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary IOC and Assistant Director-General of UNESCO in his opening remarks. “However, we continue to face very significant challenges due to the lack of maintenance of existing systems, near field tsunamis which are very close to the coasts and difficult to predict as we have seen in the recent event in Indonesia and tsunamis which are not triggered by earthquakes but by mudslides or meteorites that are much more difficult to measure,” he said. Mr. Hugh Riley Secretary General, Caribbean Tourism Organization, said: “We suffered eleven tsunamis in the past and we do take tsunami risk seriously. Tourism is the main economic driver of the region, representing 80 per cent of the region’s GDP and more than one million jobs so we cannot ignore tsunami risk. Complacency is the real danger.” “We almost disappeared from the surface of the earth for a couple of seconds in 2004 and we are now working hard on having a common early warning system and a number of mitigation measures that will build safer islands and help evacuating and securing the lives of thousands of people who are living there throughout the year not only tourists,” said Mr. Ahmed Shiian, Ambassador of Maldives to Belgium and Head of Mission to the European Union. One of those projects is the City of Hope being built on an artificial island called Hulhumale, near the capital Male and which will be able to accommodate about 130,000 people with schools, hospitals and shopping areas. The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami “was one of the most expensive in terms of economic losses. It cost more than US$ 315 million and affected many sectors including tourism,” said Mr. Teru Fukui, Member, Japan House of Representatives. “We are the first department in France to have a tsunami plan and we hope that many other departments will follow us as we have had tsunamis in the past and many more assets are located today in dangerous flooding areas including critical infrastructure” said Mr. Christos Sabanis, Head, Regional inter-ministerial Service for civil and Economic Affairs of Defence and civil Protection, in the Bouches-du-Rhône, France. To conclude Ms. Kirsi Madi, UNISDR Director said: “Education remains the number one preventive measure that can save more lives in order to leave no one behind in the future.”
By Jeanette Elsworth17 October 2018, Gevena – The economic losses caused by disasters could be reduced if the public and private sectors cooperate better on novel finance, insurance and investment strategies, according to trade and disaster risk reduction experts at a multi-agency meeting. "We know for a fact that disasters, resulting from natural hazards and extreme events associated with climate change, can lead to significant economic losses and have major repercussions for global trade and the sustainable development prospects of the most vulnerable countries," UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General, Isabelle Durant, said. "With the adoption of the Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement on climate change, the international community has strengthened its commitment to address these threats seriously." New research commissioned by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)found that losses from extreme weather events rose by 151% between the two twenty year periods 1978-1997 and 1998-2017, with damages valued at $2.9 trillion in the more recent two decades. It is also expected that this is a gross underestimation given that the majority of countries experiencing disasters have registered no economic losses against them. Furthermore, the report highlighted that developing countries were disproportionately affected. For example, Dominica's total damages and losses from Hurricane Maria alone are estimated at 224% of its annual GDP at $1.37 billion. 'International Trade Centre (ITC) Deputy Executive Director Dorothy Tembo said she agreed, adding that the special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in early October, was a clarion call to action. "Trade has a key role to play in building resilience and in reconstruction," she said, especially for the small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) that make up 80% of the economy of developing countries. Stephen Fevrier, of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States said that the increasing threat of catastrophic weather events meant that the development model pursued by Caribbean nations was no longer viable. "The vicious cycle of disaster followed by public sector borrowing makes effective development planning near impossible," he said, adding that rules on government borrowing presented an unsustainable trap for Caribbean countries repeatedly devastated by multiple disasters. Rowan Douglas of Willis Towers Watson, a leading global risk management, insurance brokerage and advisory company, said that in 2017 "We had the worst insured-losses in history, worse than any time before." However, the insurance and reinsurance business had not gone bust because 25 years ago the industry had decided to "encode risk into capital, encode climate and disaster risk into credit risk." The meeting was held to mark the International Day for Disaster Reduction, held on 13 October each year, and this year addressing the reduction of economic losses from disasters; target c of the Sendai Framework, the global roadmap for disaster risk reduction.
By Rahul SenguptaBonn, 12 October 2018 – A number of partners have expressed the need for a common platform for reporting regional progress through the online Sendai Framework monitoring system. The call came at a recent meeting, organized by UNISDR with the support from the Government of Germany, to bring together the major regional Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGOs) working on disaster risk reduction from across the world and select Member States to share their national perspectives. The Sendai Framework – the global roadmap for reducing disaster-related losses – highlights the need for action and cooperation on disaster risk reduction at the regional level through agreed regional and sub-regional mechanisms and regional Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGOs) have a core leadership role as a custodian of policy and guiding light of practice. In line with this, IGOs have established monitoring mechanisms for measuring their progress on Sendai Framework implementation or are in the process of doing so. Anais Rouveyrol, Advisor for Disaster Risk Management and Community Resilience, Pacific Community (SPC), said: “Understanding all the functionalities of the Sendai Framework Monitoring System and what we can do and how we can use it at its best is very useful to learn. After the meeting, we will plan to help the countries meet some of the important deadlines.” As a next step, UNISDR pledged to ensure that the Sendai Framework Monitoring system is available to the Regional IGOs to define and upload region specific custom indicators for monitoring the implementation of the regional DRR plans and strategies. Regional IGOs will coordinate with their respective Member States regarding the process for the regional level DRR monitoring, based on the specific context and requirements of their respective regions and also further support their Member States on meeting their obligations of national level Sendai Framework monitoring. Ricardo Mena, Chief of the Supporting and Monitoring Sendai Framework Implementation Branch of UNISDR said: “We have been consulting with the IGOs on what their specific needs are in terms of having regional reports on Sendai Framework implementation and working with their constituents (Member States) to better understand the Sendai Framework Monitoring process, their needs and also what their expectations are. “Based on these outcomes, we will be able to adjust and tailor-make the Sendai Framework Monitoring for Regional Reporting in such a way that it helps both IGOs and their Member States to comply with the requirements of Sendai Framework Monitoring over the period until 2030,” said Mr. Mena.
By Brigitte LeoniTUNIS, 15 October, 2018 - Over 100 stories on disaster risk were submitted from 16 countries for the first Africa Media Awards and the winners were announced on International Day for Disaster Reduction at the Africa-Arab Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction. “Disasters are exciting events to cover but it can be more satisfying to dig deeper into the root causes of these events in the hope that they can be addressed,” said the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori. The Awards were organised by UNISDR and Diraj, the Disaster Risk Reduction Network of African Journalists. Ms. Mizutori presented the best DRR story award to Ms Ruth Keah Kadide of Radio Rahma, Mombasa, Kenya, for her story “Skeleton River” on the negative impact of climate change on communities dependent on rivers on Kenya’s coast and possible solutions to reduce community exposure. The second category: the best DRR story with a human angle was given to Ms. Dicta Asiimwe from East African Uganda, for her story “Will forcing pastoralists to grow crops deliver food security for East Africa?” The story explains how pastoralists preferred to stick to their traditional way of living to anticipate drought and consequent famine. The third category, the best investigative story was awarded to Mr. Romain Dekadjevi from Radio Tokpa, Benin, for his story on erosion and the Grand Popo River. Ms. Mai Elshafei from Egyptian broadcasting TV from Egypt received the special recognition for her consistent DRR reporting. The UNISDR DIRAJ Media award is an initiative to encourage the media across the region to deepen public understanding of disaster risk and to spread awareness of the drivers of disaster risk in the community. “This is a good start. We did not get so many entries from the Arab states, but this I believe will change as now there is increased interest of journalists from all over the region to work together with our network – DIRAJ,” said David Owino, founder of the network. “The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction encourages media to be an active partner in its implementation and the award is a recognition of the important role the media plays in raising awareness and educating the public. We hope that the initiative will continue to prosper and that many more journalists will submit their work for consideration at the next awards ceremony,” said Ms. Mizutori. The jury was comprised of four members; UNISDR staff: Ragy Saro and Brigitte Leoni, and DIRAJ membersr: Fabiola Monty and Edward Wanyonyi.
By Denis McCleanTUNIS, 14 October, 2018 - The first joint Africa-Arab States Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction closed this weekend with a commitment by over 60 UN member States to step up action on reducing disaster losses. The Platform closed on International Day for Disaster Reduction which took as its theme #ResilienceForAll and a focus on reducing economic losses from disasters. This followed the release of a UNISDR report mid-week which showed that $3 trillion in economic losses over the last twenty years may be the tip of the iceberg as economic data is not available for 63% of recorded disaster events. Tunisian Minister for Local Affairs and the Environment, Dr. Riadh Mouakhar, presented the joint Communique which spelled out a commitment by all countries in the two regions to improve the collection of data on disaster losses through the Sendai Framework Monitor which was launched in March this year. They have also agreed to put national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction in place over the next two years. The 2020 deadline is set out in the global plan for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The Communique on Africa-Arab Cooperation on DRR was issued following adoption of the Tunis Declaration on Accelerating the Sendai Framework and the African Regional Strategy for DRR, and, separately, the adoption of the Tunis Declaration of the 4th Arab Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, told the closing ceremony, “UNISDR has a special responsibility to UN member States as custodian of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. “It is encouraging therefore to hear the very concrete steps which Africa and the Arab States are now taking towards achieving the seven targets, particularly reducing loss of life, the numbers of disaster-affected people, economic losses and damage to critical infrastructure. “It has been a successful experiment to hold a joint meeting of the two regions given the common challenges you face. Your commitment to collaborate recognizes the fact that disasters know no borders.” Ambassador Josefa Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union, said that the African Union will work with partners to implement the Sendai Framework, build capacity, promote legislative change and strengthen early warning systems. “The African Union will seek to collaborate on achieving sustainable development informed by disaster risk reduction. Disasters do not make any distinction between borders and continents.” The Assistant Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Mr. Abellatif Abid, highlighted the use of technology and social media to deepen understanding of disaster risk. He also emphasized the need to empower local authorities in the area of disaster risk management. Mr. Romain Darbellay, Director of Cooperation, Embassy of Switzerland, Tunis, extended an invitation to participants to attend the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva, in May 2019 which will take place under the theme “Resilience Dividend - Towards Sustainable and Resilient Societies” “Without disaster and climate risk management development cannot be sustainable. The topics you have discussed here are closely linked to the discussions planned in Geneva. The outcomes of these Regional Platforms feed into the Global Platform and High Level Political Forum in 2019.”
13 October 2018 - This year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction falls shortly after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia showed yet again the urgency of resilience and risk-awareness. Disasters have a steep human cost. Millions of people are displaced every year, losing their homes and jobs because of extreme weather events and earthquakes. However, not all countries report systematically on the economic losses from major disaster events, according to a new report prepared by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. This year’s International Day aims to highlight the need for Member States to improve data collection on disasters, including comprehensive accounting of economic losses. This is crucial for progress on crisis prevention. For example, a better understanding of the economic losses from extreme weather events can help to generate greater action on climate change and increased ambition on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Measuring economic losses can also motivate governments to do more to achieve the targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which seeks a substantial reduction in disaster losses by 2030. Reducing the economic losses from disasters has the power to transform lives and contribute greatly to the eradication of poverty. As we mark the International Day for Disaster Reduction, let us reaffirm our commitment to this vital endeavour.
By Denis McCleanTUNIS, 12 October, 2018 - The increasing overlap between disaster and conflict situations came under scrutiny today at a lively special session of the Africa-Arab States Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction. The current threat of a cyclone off the coast of Yemen, home to the world’s worst humanitarian emergency, was cited during the Special Session on DRR in a Fragile and Conflict Context. South Sudan's Director-General of Disaster Management, Banak Wal, recalled how the response effort for 150,000 flood-affected people in 2013 was derailed by the eruption of renewed conflict in the capital Juba which donors quickly turned their attention to. Mr Wal said it was impossible to get grassroots support for disaster risk reduction policies when they were in dire need of action to meet their needs as a result of conflict. “You cannot talk today about development when there is no access to many parts of the country.” In his view, it was unfortunate that UN member states adopting the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction decided not to include conflict. ODI research fellow, Katie Peters, cited the 2008 floods in Yemen, drought in Nigeria, as examples of disasters affecting conflict areas. “Disaster risk reduction in conflict should be a priority. I would argue that disasters are neither natural nor conflict neutral,” she said. Ms. Peters said there was “a moral imperative” to provide disaster risk reduction in conflict areas and it was not a marginal concern given the prevalence of conflict across Africa and the Arab States. FAO Assistant Director-General, Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, said world hunger was on the rise in the last two years because of conflict and disasters, making it more difficult to achieve a key Sustainable Development Goal. “The scarey thing is when the two interact." Mr. Ahmed also expressed the view that water scarcity is a much greater threat to Arab States than conflict. IOM’s Cairo representative, Nina Stuurman said there were obvious links between disasters and conflict which could lead to huge displacement of people. IOM adapts disaster risk reduction activity to conflict settings, developing effective relationships at community level and providing training to build back better when circumstances allow. She added: “There was a need to be smart in applying disaster risk reduction in situations arising from conflict and mentioned the planting of trees in Rohingya refugees camps in Bangladesh as a defence against landslides in the rainy season.” Session chair, Somali Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hamza Said Hamza, said there were clear challenges in countries like his own when confict and drought overlap. He said that 25% of the population were internally displaced. There was general agreement among the panellists and those who spoke from the floor that conflict and DRR should be a regular topic of discussion at regional platforms.
By Jeanette Elsworth12 October 2018, Astana – The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) have released an innovative guide for applying the principles of resilience to water-related disasters during the eighth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Water Convention in Kazakhstan. The guide, titled: Implementation Guide for Addressing Water-Related Disasters and Transboundary Cooperation: Integrating Disaster Risk Management with Water Management and Climate Change Adaptation, is part of the Words into Action series – a set of guidelines produced through UNISDR in conjunction with partners to demonstrate practical applications of the principles outlined in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. In the joint foreword to the publications, the heads of UNECE and UNISDR, Olga Algayerova and Mami Mizutori respectively, said: “While transboundary cooperation and sectoral cooperation may further complicate the implementation of disaster risk reduction measures, it also offers unique possibilities to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of plans and programmes by advancing synergies arising from cooperation and resulting in more robust risk reduction activities.” Over the past twenty years, there has been a sustained rise and frequency in the number of climate-related disasters such as floods and droughts. A large part of disaster risk is directly or indirectly linked to water. It is estimated that the global average annual loss from disasters will increase from an annual average of US$ 260 billion in 2015 to US$ 414 billion by 2030. This puts at risk economic growth, poverty reduction, peace, and more generally, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. This Words into Action guide aims to strengthen the capacity of Member States to implement the Sendai Framework and the Water Convention by offering a road map with concrete examples to help address water-related disasters, especially in situations where the transboundary context adds to the complexity of risk reduction. It specifically targets the water, disaster risk reduction and climate change communities and aims to bring them together so that they may jointly design effective and comprehensive disaster reduction measures. A public review of the publication has already highlighted the need and appetite for such a text within practitioners’ circles. Callist Tindimugaya, from the Ministry of Water and Environment in Uganda said: “The Words into Action Implementation Guide…is a very welcome development…[It] highlights the need for employing an integrated water resources management approach following a basin as a means of effectively addressing water related-disasters and adapting to impacts of climate change. “Awareness about the importance of river basin management and transboundary cooperation in Disaster Risk Reduction is still very low in many parts of the world and I hope that this guide will fill this gap,” said Mr. Tindimugaya.
By Denis McCleanTUNIS, October 12, 2018 - Women often suffer greatly in disaster situations but are also first-line responders, a debate on the eve of International Day for Disaster Reduction, was told today by an expert from UN Women. More needs to be done to protect women’s rights in disasters and to enable them to make a greater contribution to disaster risk management, said Dr. Jean D’Çunha, of UN WOMEN Arab States, at the Africa-Arab States Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction. Women are often small scale farmers or in poor paying jobs in agriculture and forestry with little bargaining power. Climate change and disasters were enhancing their vulnerability and leaving them open to abuse and sexual exploitation. “Women are often the sole providers for the family and succumb to the worst forms of labour. Men have the option of migration after a disaster but women are left behind and if remittances do not come, life becomes very precarious,” Dr. D’Çunha said. She cited Sierra Leone and Jordan as good examples of countries which take account of gender parity and inclusion in their policies on disaster management, promoting the fact that women are not just victims but can play a much bigger role. In Morocco, the Ministry of Agriculture is training women as natural resource managers. In Yemen, thousands of women are engaged in water conservation. Dr Richard Asaba Bagonza, Gender and DRR Researcher at Makerere University, Uganda, recalled that, worldwide, gender inequality meant that women and children are 14 times more likely to die in disaster events and comprise 75% of those displaced by disasters. He said his extensive research in Uganda was likely applicable to other parts of east Africa. Dr. Bagonza said that he found that high value resources were controlled by men and that women’s productive and reproductive roles left them more vulnerable to floods, landslides and other disasters. Women were more likely to have traditional knowledge of early warning signs and men are usually more reluctant to evacuate ahead of a disaster. UNISDR Director, Ms. Kirsi Madi, who moderated the session, observed that his findings showed that the issue of parity and inclusion went beyond gender and also affected other groups whose needs were neglected in disasters including older persons and people living with disabilities. Research by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, found that there was not enough data or qualitative information to say if disaster law and legal frameworks work adequately to prevent sexual and gender-based violence during disasters. IFRC inclusion expert, Mr. Amjad Saleem, said that women are generally absent from the formulation of disaster risk reduction policies and government departments for Women’s Affairs are not well integrated into disaster risk management activities.
By Jeanette Elsworth11 October 2018, Bali - Mami Mizutori, Head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), has called on ministers of finance around the world to incentivize the private sector to commit to risk-informed investment and practice. Mrs Mizutori, who is also the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on this topic, made the comments while speaking at a meeting of the finance ministers of Commonwealth countries which took place in Bali, Indonesia, just two weeks after a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the island of Sulawesi. “Nobody understands better the long-term impacts of unnecessary economic losses on human development than the people in this room,” said Mrs Mizutori, emphasizing that the impacts of natural hazards can be felt far beyond the initial event and many of the key issues facing the global population and economy are inter-linked. “The economic losses that follow are a hard blow to sustain and can set back development gains by many years. How well we manage and reduce disaster risk will influence our success in achieving sustainable development and adapting to climate change,” she said. The meeting took place as part of the annual World Bank/IMF meeting where senior officials representing 53 countries were gathered. This follows the release of a joint report by UNISDR and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) on Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters, which showed that even though the number of deaths from natural hazards had decreased over the last twenty years, economic losses had increased by 2.5. Reducing economic losses from disasters is Target c of the roadmap for reducing disaster loss, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and also the theme of the upcoming International Day for Disaster Reduction, celebrated on 13 October. It will be the central theme of the upcoming Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, taking place in May 2019. Earlier in the week, in its latest report, the Intergovernmental Platform on Climate Change (IPCC) issued dire warnings about the need for expedited action to reduce carbon emissions and limit the global temperature rise to under 1.5 degrees. Under current trends, natural hazards related to climate are expected to increase in both frequency and intensity.