Americas meets to review HFA progress

From left: Director of Chile's National Emergency Office of Ministry of the Interior and Public Security Benjamin Chacana, Head of UNISDR's Regional Office in the Americas Ricardo Mena, UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction Margareta Wahlström, Chile's Undersecretary of the Interior Rodrigo Ubilla, and UNDP Country Director Antonio Molpeceres. (Photo / Claudio Reyes Abaroa)
 
By Humberto Jaime

SANTIAGO, 27 November 2012 - The countries and territories of Latin America and the Caribbean are meeting to review the region's implementation of the world's first international framework agreement for reducing disaster risk, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), designed to save lives, jobs and properties from natural hazards.

UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström, told the 3rd Session of the Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction of the Americas that the region had an important opportunity to help shape an international disaster risk management framework which would follow on from the HFA in 2015.

A new record had been set in 2011 with economic losses of $380 billion globally while the Americas had recently suffered an earthquake in Guatemala and Hurricane Sandy had badly affected Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and the eastern coast of the United States.

Latin America and the Caribbean had suffered $213 billion losses over the last 30 years but that number could be doubled if it included the smaller, more frequent disasters which impact the region.

Ms. Wahlström highlighted the fact that there were 16 countries in the region with national disaster loss data bases. "With all the evidence-based information that is now available, we can make a strong case for more investment in reducing disaster risk and increasing resilience.

"Against this reality, countries are still not investing enough in disaster risk. A recent report by the World Bank shows that only 3.6% of international disaster financing is being invested in reducing risks. For these reasons, the main theme of this third session of the Regional Platform of the Americas is 'Investing for Resilience.'"

"The trend that is seen in almost every continent is that economic development is exposing ever growing numbers of people and assets to disasters. This is particularly the case in those regions were the economy and the population have been growing at a faster pace. While global population increased 87 per cent between 1970 and 2010 (from 3.7 to 6.9 billion), in Latin America and the Caribbean it increased 107 percent over the same period, going from 285 million in 1970 to 590 million in 2010. So, this region has nowadays twice as much population as it did in 1970.

"The other characteristic that makes this region particularly prone to disasters is the fact that over 70 per cent of its population lives already in urban areas, a number that is likely to grow to 87 per cent by 2050. Cities are centres for innovation, economic opportunities and culture."

Ms. Wahlström noted that in the Americas, more than 80 per cent of all disasters occur in urban areas. This situation underlines the urgent need to strengthen the capacity of local governments to reduce disaster risk and to plan for the growth of cities taking disaster risk into account.

A highlight of the opening day of the 3rd Session of the Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas was the formal establishment of a National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Chile, two years after 562 people were killed in a devastating earthquake. This brings the number of National Platforms worldwide to 82.

Rodrigo Ubilla, Deputy Minister of Interior, referred to the special sensitivity of the country to disaster risk which was created by the tragedy of the February 2010 earthquake.

Mr. Ubilla said: "My experience is that there does not really exist any place or territory which is entirely risk-free." He added that the best strategy was to assume that risk was always present and the next disaster could happen anytime.

Chacana Benjamin, Director of the National Office for Emergencies (ONEMI), said that hosting the Regional Platform was an important opportunity for Chile. "We are able to discuss how best we can promote the integration of disaster risk reduction into policy and planning as well as fortifying our institutions at country level so we can strengthen our resilience against natural disasters."

The Regional Platform opened yesterday and runs until tomorrow. It is being attended by representatives from 42 countries and territories around the world including government and local government officials, representatives of civil society organizations, aid agencies and donors.
The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will take place in 2015 The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will take place in 2015.
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