Africa unites on reducing disaster risk

(l to r) Prof. Viola Onwuliri, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Nigeria; Paul Dlamini, Deputy PM, Swaziland; and Margareta Wahlstrom, Head of UNISDR (Photo: UNISDR)
 
ABUJA, 16 May 2014 – Africa today became the first world region to make a comprehensive set of recommendations for a new UN global agreement on reducing disaster risk, recognizing that most disasters in Africa are water-related and that efforts are needed to prevent conflict as part of overall efforts to build resilience to disasters.

On the closing day of the 5th Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (May 13-16), which has been attended by over 900 participants, a minute’s silence was observed by representatives from Africa Union members for the safe release of the Nigerian schoolgirls taken hostage a month ago and in memory of all those who have lost their lives in terrorist attacks across the country.

The closing day incorporated the region’s 3rd Ministerial Meeting for Disaster Risk Reduction, and saw the adoption of a comprehensive Statement summarizing Africa’s contribution to the post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which will be adopted at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, in March 2015. The Platform was convened by the Africa Union Commission and hosted by the Federal Republic of Nigeria with support from the Economic Community for West African States and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

The Head of UNISDR, Margareta Wahlström, said: “Africa’s focus on people and addressing their vulnerabilities comes through clearly in the summary statement. It also recognizes the need to build on the existing Hyogo Framework for Action and to become more action-oriented and accountable.

“Africa has made 12 recommendations for the integration of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction and recognized the opportunity of 2015 to integrate three agendas around sustainable development goals, a new agreement on climate change and the new framework for disaster risk reduction.”

The Deputy Prime Minister of Swaziland and Co-Chair, Paul Dlamini, welcomed the outcome Statement: “We are sharing our views well in advance of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction next year. Our greatest concern is that international cooperation helps us to reduce the impact of disasters on the poor and the most vulnerable. We must work closely together across all regions if we are to save lives and improve the quality of life in our countries.”

Under Regional Risk Factors and Institutional Frameworks, there is recognition that rapid urbanization, vulnerable infrastructure, land and environmental degradation and, extreme poverty, food insecurity and disease continue to drive risk and undermine resilience. Small island states need special consideration.

The Statement calls for strengthened institutional capacity to enforce legislation and more decentralization of responsibilities and resources. It notes that public participation in policy development will better ensure that particular vulnerabilities of girls, boys, women, elderly, and persons with disabilities, are addressed.

Population movements induced by disasters and long-term violent conflicts call for cross-border cooperation. Integrated and coordinated approaches to disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and related aspects of conflict prevention, can improve the impact of investments.

The Statement observes that the year 2015 will be marked by three landmark agreements: a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction (March), sustainable development goals (September), and a new UNFCCC climate change agreement (December), which should be explicit in mutually supporting outcomes for sustainable development.

The Statement recognizes the impact of climate change on urban areas and calls for disaster-sensitive physical planning, enforcement of building codes and investments in resilient urban infrastructure which can be applied to prevent the accumulation of further risks.
Regional Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction take place from Africa to the Pacific Regional Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction take place from Africa to the Pacific.
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