From left: Moeen Hamzeh - Secretary-General of the National Council for Scientific Research, Margareta Wahlström, Najib Mikati - Prime Minister of Lebanon, Robert Watkins - United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, and Ruth Flint - Ambassador of Switzerland.
By Berta Acero
CAIRO, 19 October 2012
- UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, praised the efforts of the Government of Lebanon over the last years to create a firm foundation in building resilience and reducing disaster risk in the country.
In her meeting with the President of the Republic of Lebanon last Thursday, his Excellency Michel Sleiman, Ms. Wahlström requested the personal support of the President towards the approval of a draft law that proposes the establishment of a national disaster management agency, currently under review by the parliamentary committees.
Introduced by MP Mohammad Qabbani, Head of the Public Works, Transportation, Energy and Water Resources Committee, at the end of 2011, the law proposes the creation of a national decision making authority for disaster management, for both natural as well as man-made disasters. The body will be directly linked to the Prime Minister.
"I am particularly impressed to see that steady progress has been made since the establishment of a dedicated Disaster Risk Management Unit under the leadership of the Prime Minister's office", said Wahlström who heads UNISDR, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
"This progress is illustrated by the establishment of a national committee on the implementation and reporting on the Hyogo Framework for Action, the development of a national disaster response plan, the completion of the first national disaster loss database in Lebanon, and the draft law on establishing a national disaster risk reduction agency".
In her visit to Lebanon, Wahlström also recognized the key role that the scientific and research community has to play in providing evidence, knowledge and guidance to mitigate and reduce risk. Speaking at the 'Assessing and Managing Risk in Lebanon' National Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, she acknowledged the call of the Prime Minister on Lebanese universities to integrate disaster risk reduction in education tracks at graduate and undergraduate levels as an essential activity to building long-term resilience.
Held in Beirut 17-18 October, the event provided an opportunity to better understand the risk profile of Lebanon and share experiences and best practices with a number of countries, including Japan, Jordan and Italy as well as the European Union.
Since 2003, sustained political interest and commitment from the Lebanese government has given the issue of disaster risk reduction greater national visibility.