European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, Martijn Quinn, Member of Cabinet and Margareta Wahlström, Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) at the European Parliament in Brussels, 16 September 2013
By Denis McClean
GENEVA, 18 September 2013 - European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva this week told European parliamentarians that significant progress has been made in reducing disaster impacts across Europe over the last nine years of the Hyogo Framework for Action, the global agreement monitored by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response said that this year’s floods in Europe were worse than those which occurred in 2002 but fewer people died and damage had been contained because of measures which have been taken to reduce vulnerability. The worst case scenario is that this year's floods in Europe will cost Euros 13 billion.
Commissioner Georgieva praised the Romanian response to recent floods which took nine lives but which the country managed without having to call on assistance from the European Union.
She also cited dramatic improvements in Europe’s ability to handle the impacts of heat waves which are estimated to have resulted in 72,000 deaths in six European countries in the summer of 2003, accounting for the bulk of disaster-related mortality in Europe over the last ten years.
The Commissioner, speaking to members of the European Parliament Development Committee on “Reducing Risks in Post-2015: EU perspectives on Building Resilience of Communities to Disasters”, emphasized that “we have evidence that disasters are on the increase but we also have evidence that disaster risk reduction pays off.”
She also spoke about how the EU is investing billions in building resilience in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel citing the fact that the region had experienced three severe droughts in the last seven years when historically they occurred once every 15 years.
She said we have to “prepare for a world that will inevitably experience more fragility because of climate change, because of urbanization, because of population growth, and also because in many areas on top of it there are conflicts.”
The joint collaboration between UNISDR and DG ECHO was highlighted as important o making coherent progress in building resilience to disasters.
MEP Gay Mitchell, Rapporteur for the European Parliament’s Development Committee, said: “We must note that the Hyogo Framework for Action has made significant progress in strengthening institutional and legislative arrangements for disaster risk reduction but it is important that disaster risk reduction and resilience policies are mainstreamed.”
Margareta Wahlström, the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, praised the leadership of the European Commission and the European Parliament in building resilience. She encouraged the adoption of resilience as a development model and said that the challenge for 2014 and 2015 is to raise the bar politically and forge an understanding of how risk accumulates for the future.
She noted that while governments had taken on responsibility for the Hyogo Framework for Action, the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction will require participation and implementation by many different stakeholder groups if it is to be successful.
It would also require taking a more integrated approach across sectors such as water, health, food and agriculture. “We don’t need parallel and separate tracks,” she said.