Members of Parliament around the world are key drivers of change in moving the disaster risk reduction agenda forward from political commitments to concrete action. Realizing the human and economic imperative to shift from a disaster response culture to one of prevention and risk reduction, parliamentarians from Africa, Asia, and Latin America are stepping up to the challenge.
A push came this week from Senator Loren Legarda hosting the national launch of the 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR11) at the Philippine Senate on July 26. Senator Legarda is UNISDR’s Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia and the Pacific and Chair of the Philippine Senate Committee on Climate Change.
"The reported eighteen-fold increase in our economic losses due to disasters since 1970 is alarming. How can we move on as a nation towards growth and progress if hard-earned socio-economic gains are often set back by the impact of recurring natural hazards?" said Senator Legarda at the GAR11 launch, which followed the President’s State of the Nation Address.
In Africa, Members of Parliaments from Uganda are in the process of setting up an official disaster risk reduction Committee of Parliamentarians that has been approved and budgeted by the government. Parliamentarians in Latin America have been crucial in supporting the UNISDR-led World Disaster Reduction Campaign, ‘Making Cities Resilient – My City is Getting Ready’ at the Iberoamerican Union of Municipalities, which will provide training to mayors from the twenty-two countries in the region, Spain and Portugal that make up the Union. In Asia, Bangladesh is improving access to DRR information by translating UNISDR’s advocacy kit “Disaster risk reduction: an instrument for achieving the Millennium Development Goals” for use in the country’s national languages.
One of the recent key drivers of parliamentarian contribution to disaster risk reduction is the Manila Call for Action. Directed at national governments and adopted unanimously in November 2010 by parliamentarians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, and Thailand, the Manila Call for Action is for parliamentarians to apply disaster risk as an instrument for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
“We need to elevate national and global aspirations in addressing disaster risk from mere ‘reduction’ towards ‘elimination’, and to promote disaster prevention with 'zero tolerance' to disaster losses as a mindset and approach for international, national, and local development action,” says the Manila Call for Action.
In the Call, the parliamentarians also agreed to enhance their knowledge and capacity in disaster risk reduction through closer collaboration with UNISDR, the strategic arm of the United Nations Secretariat responsible for coordinating disaster risk reduction activities globally.