Asia: turning disaster into opportunity
Geneva, 2 December -- In October 2010, Cyclone Giri wrecked homes, roads and bridges in Myanmar and Thailand, leaving 100,000 people homeless and twice as many needing humanitarian assistance – forming an apt backdrop for the decision by Asian governments a few days later to recognize disaster risk reduction as a tool for climate change adaptation.
Asia is where three-fourths of the world’s deaths happen from earthquakes, floods, landslides, storms and drought. Emerging from four days of talks from 25 to 28 October 2010, officials at the Fourth Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Incheon, Korea, signed a declaration calling on each other, among other things, to promote disaster risk reduction as a matter of regional policy.
In the declaration, the Conference called on all stakeholders to apportion at least 10 percent of humanitarian assistance and two percent of development assistance for disaster risk reduction by 2015.
Accompanying the declaration was the “Incheon REMAP” -- a five-year roadmap to establish climate resilient disaster risk management systems by 2015. Crafted with the guidance and support of the Prime Ministers of Korea and Bhutan, and by ministerial statements from Ministers and Heads of Delegation of 50 countries from Asia and the Pacific, the roadmap says: “Disasters are a big concern for most countries and have great impact on our economy. As there is a saying ‘Disasters can be an opportunity,’ we need to turn disaster into opportunity and create new type of growth.”
The roadmap specifies several indicators of success: for one, all parties hope to have coordinating mechanisms in place for joint disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation programming in two years. The aim is for all parties to have combined disaster risk reduction and climate change programming or funding by five years.
Fittingly for a region that prides itself on its highly skilled and educated workforce, leaders at Incheon agreed to boost the training of government officials and other stakeholders in disaster risk reduction. The roadmap suggests that parties attempt to develop a Masters equivalent degree programme or certificate programme for government officials on climate resilient disaster risk reduction.
With its eye on the future, the Incheon meeting proposes that the roadmap be reviewed at the Fifth Asian Ministerial Conference on disaster risk reduction, in 2012. The UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction is suggested to prepare a report on the achievements of the roadmap against a set of indicators.
Through the Incheon REMAP, Asia demonstrates its commitment to moving from the continent bearing the biggest load of disaster losses to one that is at the forefront of strategic solutions to disaster risk management. Will others follow suit?