MESSAGE ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR DISASTER REDUCTION
New York, 12 October 2005
The past year has reminded people everywhere that no place in the
world is immune from natural disaster. From the massive Indian Ocean
earthquake and tsunami to the drought- and locust-ravaged countries
of Africa, from the devastation caused by hurricanes and cyclones
in the United States, the Caribbean and the Pacific to heavy flooding
across Europe and Asia, hundreds of thousands of people have lost
their lives, and millions their livelihoods, to natural disasters.
The lesson we must draw is encapsulated in the theme of this year’s
International Day for Disaster Reduction: “Invest to prevent
disaster.” We cannot stop natural calamities, but we can and
must better equip individuals and communities to withstand them.
Those most vulnerable to nature’s wrath are usually the poorest,
which means that when we reduce poverty, we also reduce vulnerability.
In this International Year of Microcredit, we should recognize
that microfinance can do much to help empower those with little or
no access to traditional financial institutions, thereby reducing
disaster risk and improving disaster management. By diversifying
the income of high-risk populations and promoting disaster insurance,
microfinance can strengthen coping mechanisms before disasters, while
hastening recovery afterwards.
These are the type of innovative approaches called for in the Hyogo
Framework for Action 2005-2015, adopted at the World Conference on
Disaster Reduction in January, and reaffirmed in September at the
World Summit at United Nations Headquarters in New York. On this
International Day, after a year in which we should all have learned
profound lessons, I call on governments at all levels, international
organizations, civil society groups, and the private sector to implement
this framework and invest in poverty reduction and disaster prevention,
in order to build resilient communities and save lives.