VERA CRUZ, MEXICO, 1 March 2012
- Disaster risk reduction was at the top of the agenda today for over 2,000 mayors and municipal leaders in Vera Cruz, Mexico, attending the Conferencia Anual de Municipios 2012
at which the keynote address was delivered by UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström.
She warned against the rising cost of disasters to cities as she recalled that Mexico was located in the heart of a region, Latin America and the Caribbean, with the highest percentage of people - 83% - living in cities and towns.
"Population statistics also tell us that the segment of the population that has the highest rate of growth is the urban poor who have no access to safe land and frequently settle in marginal areas that are highly exposed to natural hazards. Already some 110 million poor people are living in city slums. This figure represents 23 per cent of the overall urban population."
She urged more cities and municipalities throughout Mexico to join the UNISDR campaign Making Cities Resilient- My city is getting ready! which was launched in 2010 and now has almost 1,000 members around the world including 118 cities in the Americas.
"In Mexico, a project called Municipio Seguro, Resistentes a los Desastres
(Safe Cities Are Resistant to Disasters) that was launched in April 2010 in the framework of the UNISDR campaign has been joined by more than 60 municipalities.
"I do hope that soon, these and other Mexican cities will join our campaign and commit to its ten essential action points aimed at building a culture of safety and risk prevention among their communities.
"Local interventions are the foundations of disaster risk reduction and cities threatened by recurrent disasters such as cities affected by severe rain as was the case a few weeks ago here in Vera Cruz, or those affected by tropical storms, earthquakes, droughts and other natural hazards shall be in the frontline of disaster prevention and risk reduction projects at the local level."
She added that urban centers are producing most of the world's economic output, but at the same time cities are highly vulnerable and very exposed to risk from natural, technological and environmental hazards.
"Socio-economic, cultural and business growth are centered in high risk areas because this is where we see opportunities. But city leaders need help to think of ways to ensure their investment decisions are sound."
She said UNISDR has developed a self-assessment tool for local governments which, as it is introduced over time, will produce comparable data across cities around the world to measure advancements in disaster risk reduction.
"After they have performed a thorough assessment, city and municipal governments can argue more successfully for money to be allocated to disaster risk reduction, both within the local governing council as well as from national government," said Ms. Wahlström.