Learning the hard way: Samoa will share its disaster lessons when it hosts next year's Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States
By Andy McElroy
GENEVA, 26 August 2013 -
Small Island Developing States will this week seek to plot a course to a safer and more resilient future as part of their preparations for a major conference next year.
The Inter-regional preparatory meeting for the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which opens today in Bridgetown, Barbados, brings together nations from the three SIDS regions – Caribbean, Pacific and the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean South China Seas (AIMS) – to forge the way forward.
Samoa, which will host the Third International Conference in September 2014, is relishing the opportunity to showcase to the rest of the world its extensive experience in community resilience.
The head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Ms Margareta Wahlström, who last month held a series of meetings with national and community leaders in Samoa, said the 2009 tsunami and the recent devastation of Tropical Cyclone Evan in December 2012 had increased efforts towards disaster and climate resilient development in the Pacific nation.
“I have been particularly impressed by the system in Samoa; it knows the importance of communities being in the lead of initiatives that will make them more resilient to disasters,” Ms Wahlström said.
“Effective disaster risk management has to be inclusive, coordinated and focused and again it is encouraging to see the private sector being so active in Samoa with the Chamber of Commerce engaged with the National Disaster Advisory Council.”
As Samoa and many Pacific countries develop their economies, Ms Wahlström emphasized the importance of disaster risk-sensitive planning in terms of expanding and strengthening infrastructure, improving public health systems and seeking to meet the aspirations of the younger generation.
The recently-released 2013 UN Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction highlighted the opportunities for SIDS: ‘’Because of a combination of high risks and low resilience, these are countries where investments in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are likely to reap the greatest benefits.’’
The Report, which is entitled ‘‘From Shared Risk to Shared Value: The Business Case for Disaster Risk Reduction’’, says that the world’s SIDS collectively contribute less than 1 per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions.
‘’However, climate change is likely to disproportionately increase their disaster risk, due to sea level rise and associated flood and storm surge hazard, increasing cyclonic wind intensity, erosion, saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers and worsening water scarcity and drought,’’ the Report says.