14 June, Brussels - Recognizing the political importance and impact of recent disasters, UNISDR and the European Parliament organized the debate "Prevent or react: The EU approach to Disaster Risk Reduction" to discuss the European Union's approach to disaster prevention.
The DEVE Parliamentary Committee debate held in Brussels included Margareta Wahlström, the United Nations Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, and Marcus Oxley, the Chairman of the Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for Disaster Reduction.
"Risk is increasing fastest in rich countries because rich countries has most wealth to lose," said Ms. Wahlström speaking to the Committee on the need to change mindsets from absorbing disaster losses to proactive planning and understanding how risk is being accumulated.
The debate focused on the added-value of the European Union and using funding more effectively to address disaster risk. The speakers emphasized the growing need for smart investments in disaster risk reduction and how the role of national governments within Europe can translate actions into policies. Members of the European Parliament also raised questions on the need to include disaster prevention in the EU legislative proposal for renewing its civil protection mechanism, increasing public awareness on DRR, and consequences of disasters on achieving the Millennium Development Goals, a global plan to reduce extreme poverty by 2015.
"Only half a percentage of development funding goes to DRR today... we have to raise awareness among development professionals on the importance of integrating DRR in the way they operate and the projects that they plan," said Ms. Georgieva speaking to the Committee about investments from development financing.
The European Commissioner also said this year has shown that the developed world is not immune to disasters highlighting the Australian floods, the massive earthquake in New Zealand, the triple earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown disaster in Japan, and, most recently, the extreme weather in the United States.
"This is the clearest possible evidence that we should no more talk about DRR as a task for the future. It is something that is on the political agenda today, and actually to be more accurate we should probably say, as of yesterday."
Margareta Wahlström was also in Brussels to launch the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR) entitled "Revealing Risk, Redefining Development". The launch of the GAR included representatives from the European Commission, Permanent Missions to the EU, non-governmental organizations, the media and universities.