Community resilience tops Davos agenda

Abholghassem Baghbannezhad (centre), Director of the Iranian Crisis Management Organization, Municipality of Mashhad signs a commitment to the Ten Essential of the Making Cities Resilient campaign.
 
By Sarah Wade-Apicella

DAVOS, 29 August 2102 - Major roll-outs of UNISDR's Making Cities Resilient campaign in Austria and Iran were outlined yesterday at the 4th International Disaster and Risk Conference, in Davos, Switzerland, which has brought together experts from around the world.

Yesterday's plenary session on urban risks and resilience highlighted the experience of the Austrian province of Tyrol and the city of Mashhad, Iran - both signatories to the UNISDR campaign Making Cities Resilient: 'My city is getting ready!'

"The Province of the Tyrol is now one of the most experienced communities in community-based risk management in the world," said Marcel Innerkofler, Head of the Early Warning and Emergency Management Center from the Federal Province of the Tyrol, Austria. "Private-public partnership has proven successful."

More than 300 workshops have been run in all 279 municipalities, training nearly 2,000 community members in hazard mapping, risk identification and planning. They are ready to share their experience and will host their first city-to-city learning event between city of Lienz, Austria and Jönköping, Sweden with the support of alpS and MSB.

Similarly, the Iranian city of Mashhad, the country's second largest with a population of three million, is taking the lead on exporting its experience of building community resilience to disasters to other cities across Iran and in the region.

Abholghassem Baghbannezhad, Director of the Iranian Crisis Management Organization, Municipality of Mashhad, shared Mashhad's vision to become a regional role model and to engage 1,000 Iranian cities and towns through its 30-project Samen Plan which includes a comprehensive range of disaster risk reduction activities such as application of strict building regulations, training of volunteers, school education and earthquake-proof schools.

Mr. Baghbannezhad marked the occasion of the 2nd anniversary of Mashhad joining the Making Cities Resilient Campaign by announcing the publication in Farsi of the UNISDR handbook for local government leaders, "How to Make Cities More Resilient".

The Handbook, a practical guide to support public policy and decision making as cities take action on the 10 Essentials for Making Cities Resilient, is now available in Chinese, French, Spanish and Russian in addition to English and Farsi.

Campaign director, Helena Molin Valdés, said: "It is encouraging to hear from Tyrol and Mashhad how motivating it is to be part of this campaign. UNISDR would particularly like to congratulate them for the way they are reaching out to other cities and towns to export their own best practice in disaster risk reduction and building resilience. This is crucial to the campaign's success as we encourage more cities and towns to join the 1,050 cities and towns which have already signed up to the campaign."

"Building community is a requirement of resilience," proclaimed panelist Ortwin Renn of Stuttgart University, underscoring what has been echoed by many here at Davos.

Recalling that strong urban governance and private sector engagement are two key ingredients, panelist Ms Alice Balbo of ICLEI -- Local Governments for Sustainability - added: "The local level needs to be involved in these strategies. If these strategies don't reach the local community, we are not reaching the target."

One community project celebrated at Davos this week is "Making the City of Beira Resilient to Floods and Cyclones". The Mozambique National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), IP-Consult and German International Cooperation (GIZ) were awarded the first international RISK Award, funded by the Munich Re Foundation.

The winning project focuses on a people-centered low-cost flood warning system operated by local disaster risk committees and will be put to test this 13 October, the International Day for Disaster Reduction, in a simulation exercise.

"We won't be satisfied until at least two to three other cities are recognized," said João Ribeiro, Director of INGC. "We already have experience in Maputo, and other cities." In Mozambique, the INGC recognizes that traditional knowledge can be transformed into technical knowledge. "The secret here is to join both modern and traditional approaches to disaster risk management."

Nearly 1,000 participants from 100 countries have gathered in Davos to present experiences and discuss solutions to "Integrative Risk Management in a Changing World - Pathways to a Resilient Society" IDRC Davos 2012. The conference runs 26-30 August and can be followed online at http://www.idrc.info/.

The conference also aims to provide inputs into the 4th Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction to be held in Geneva, 19-23 May 2013, and contribute to the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction discussions.
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