Mr. Robert Glasser (right), the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, and Mr. Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions, sign the Action Plan (Photo: European Union / Jean-Louis Flemal)
13 October 2016, BRUSSELS - The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) have agreed a five-year plan to support EU cities and regions to take more concerted action to reduce the impact of natural disasters. It specifically wants to increase the number of towns and cities with disaster risk-reduction strategies by 2020.
The Action Plan, which was signed on International Day for Disaster Reduction, seeks to translate the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 – a voluntary international approach to disaster-management policy and operations – into ideas for local and regional governments. The Action Plan upgrades a partnership between the CoR and the UNISDR that dates back to 2012.
"Did you know that 1.3 million people died in disasters over the past twenty years in storms, floods, heat waves, droughts, earthquakes and tsunamis? Many could have been saved with better preparedness and early warning systems," said Mr. Robert Glasser, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Mr. Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: "We are signing this Action Plan, because – right here, right now – regions and cities across the EU are at risk. Cities are growing, the climate is changing, and we need to improve how we share knowledge – these are just other three reasons why we need to cooperate more."
The signing ceremony came seven weeks after an earthquake in central Italy killed almost 300 people.
"The recent tragic events in central Italy clearly show how important it is to build resilient communities," said Mr. Adam Banaszak, a CoR member from Poland, who is currently drafting specific proposals on how local and regional authorities, working with the UNISDR and the EU, could assess, reduce, and respond to the risk of natural disasters. "We local and regional governments are on the frontline of disaster management. We deal with prevention, immediate responses and rescue operations. Natural disasters know no borders and therefore require coordinated efforts."
Mr Banaszak's report, which will add a local and regional perspective to work already done by the European Commission, is due for adoption in March 2017. In June 2014, the CoR contributed to deliberations about the Sendai Framework in a report written by Mr. Harvey Siggs, a member from the United Kingdom.
Mr. Siggs emphasised the importance of sharing knowledge, saying: "We need further collaboration and investment in information systems, and to work with the private sector so that disaster and disaster management data can be recorded, retrieved, analysed and used to plan for and mitigate the effects of future disasters."