United Nations, NY, 8 February – Building on last year’s UN summit on the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations General Assembly will convene on Wednesday its first thematic debate on disaster risk reduction to encourage governments to take action and invest more in reducing risk and exposure to disasters.
The one-day UN debate on disaster risk reduction – organized under the auspices of the office of UN General Assembly President Joseph Deiss, with support from the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) – will focus on the need for governments to invest in effective disaster risk reduction efforts, and on building resilience in rapidly expanding urban areas, where risk, population and economic assets are concentrated.
The high-level discussion comes only weeks after devastating floods and a category-5 cyclone wreaked havoc on Australia, and torrential rains and mudslides killed hundreds in Brazil.
“Considering the level of destruction caused by natural hazards in recent months, there is no better time to discuss the underlying affects these disasters have on people and property,” stressed Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, who will be present at the debate. “Investing in disaster risk reduction is no longer an option, but a necessity that should be addressed by all countries.”
From the earthquake in Haiti and other major tremors in Chile and China to floods in Pakistan and Europe, wild fires in Russia and cyclones and tropical storms in Asia, last year was one of the deadliest years for disasters. According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), more than 373 natural disasters took place in 2010, killing nearly 300,000 people and affecting over 200 million others, at a cost of nearly US$ 110 billion.
“It is important to recognize the importance of reducing vulnerabilities and risks to hazards, especially in developing countries whose development gains can be wiped out in a single disaster,” said Ms. Wahlström. “Unless the world acts now, we will see more and more disasters due to unplanned urbanization and environmental degradation.”
Outcomes from thematic debate -- to be opened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon -- will inform, among others, the third session of the biennial Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which will convene from 8-15 May 2011 in Geneva, Switzerland.