Building on last year’s United Nations High-level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, the first-ever informal thematic 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) – took place at UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday, 9 February 2011. The informal debate consisted of two panel sessions: one on investing in disaster risk reduction, and the second on addressing the challenges of disaster risk in cities.
Opening the event, Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, said that the international community must learn to manage and maintain a truly global response to disasters caused by natural hazards and make the most effective use of resources. The more governments, UN agencies, organizations, businesses and civil society understand risk and vulnerability, the better equipped they will be to mitigate disasters when they strike, and thus, save more lives.
Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, said the thematic debate had been valuable for generating ideas that would add value to the work of the United Nations in the area of disaster risk reduction. This included calls for more awareness-raising activities, better use of shared experiences, advance planning and prevention, community-based participation and investments, including the means to mobilize resources.
Participants also called for the enhancement of data collection and the scaling-up of investments in education, better urban planning, the sharing of information and technology, and the raising of awareness, especially to ensure that specific disasters and the needs of victims, remained high on the international agenda long after they had dropped from the news headlines.
The outcomes of the debate will contribute to the agenda of the upcoming Third Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which is scheduled to from 8 to 13 May 2011 in Geneva, Switzerland.