GENEVA, 14 November 2011
– Seeking new ways to strengthen community resilience, city officials from Thailand and Viet Nam today began a two-day exchange with counterparts in the Philippines to examine the award-winning “Purok system” used by the city of San Francisco, Philippines, to empower ordinary people to find solutions for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
San Francisco, a city in the remote Camotes Islands of Cebu Province, won the prestigious UN Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction in 2011 for its “Purok system” to improve citizens’ abilities to manage risk.
The Purok system is a form of community organization unique to San Francisco, used to disseminate information and risk assessments through “Purok coordinators” who act as couriers of information for residents, given the region’s limited access to the Internet, cellphones and radios.
The Purok has been used, as well, by San Francisco’s impoverished citizens to manage a pool of emergency funds, which people can draw from in times of disaster to improve their chances of bouncing back after a flood or typhoon.
The mayor of San Francisco, Al Arquillano, in meetings with officials from Hai Phong, Viet Nam and the Municipality of Had Yai city, Songkla province, Thailand, and three other mayors from Cebu province, will discuss how the Purok was used to improve the city’s solid waste management system and protect the city’s fisheries.
“The exchange between these cities is an important learning experience,” said Helena Molin Valdes, interim Director of the UN disaster reduction office, UNISDR. “San Francisco belongs to our ‘Making Cities Resilient’ campaign, which encourages mayors to share experiences with cities facing similar challenges in coping with disaster. We hope the campaign will generate more such exchanges.”
Ms. Molin Valdes said UNISDR will facilitate several meetings between the Vietnamese, Thai and Philippine cities, where participants are also expected to visit a tree planting site – part of San Francisco’s “Two Million Trees Project,” which was funded by their winnings from the Sasakawa Award – to rehabilitate watershed areas and give the community a food-for-work programme to plant trees and generate income.
On Tuesday, representatives of the visiting cities will plant trees as a carbon off-set initiative, Ms. Molin Valdes said.
The meeting between Thai, Vietnamese and the Philippines takes place prior to the Third Philippines Cities Global Convention and Exposition, which is slated for 17 to 19 November and organized by the League of Cities of the Philippines.
UNISDR expects over 100 cities attending the convention to join the Making Cities Resilient campaign on Friday, 18 November, further increasing the pool of cities from which to learn and exchange experiences.
UNISDR has been instrumental in bringing cities together to exchange experiences in disaster risk reduction, as part of its “Making Cities Resilient” campaign, which has attracted nearly 1,000 cities worldwide.