Local governments are key players when it comes to reducing the impact of a wide range of hazards, including earthquakes (Photo: Nicolas Bandini / Italian Red Cross)
By Biljana Markova
BRUSSELS, 13 October 2016 – The European Union's assembly of regional and local representatives , the Committee of the Regions, today cemented its collaboration with the United Nations as the globe marked International Day for Disaster Reduction.
Local governments are a key component in efforts to curb the human and economic impact of natural and man-made hazards, and the Committee of the Regions inked a five-year action plan with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. The aim is to accelerate implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a 15-year blueprint adopted by the international community in 2015.
Mr. Robert Glasser, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of UNISDR was in Brussels to announce the joint agreement, together with Mr. Markku Markkula, President of the Committee of the Regions.
“Europe stands for excellence when it comes to disaster risk governance and huge efforts are being made to invest in resilient infrastructure, engage with local communities and to build back better. Nonetheless, more needs to be done to ensure the sustainability of our economies, and the resilience of our communities, and our collaboration with the Committee of the Regions presents a great opportunity for that,” said Mr. Glasser.
Mr. Markkula stated: "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 Committee of the Regions’ efforts in addressing disaster risk reduction are a key contribution to European and global priorities aimed at preventing migration crises and displacement, and pursuing growth and sustainability.
Since 2012, the Committee of the Regions and UNISDR have collaborated to promote disaster risk reduction at the local and regional levels. The overall objective of the new action plan is to strengthen the implementation and coordination of disaster risk reduction efforts through multiple activities in the areas of policy, planning and implementation, and advocacy and outreach, in order to support resilience-building in communities in Europe.
Mr. Adam Banaszak, a Committee of the Regions member from Poland, also spoke at the signing ceremony. He is at the helm of a wide-ranging assessment, set to be released in March 2017, of how local and regional authorities, working with the UNISDR and other European Union institution, can take stock of, reduce, and respond to the risk of disasters.
Fellow Committee of the Regions member Mr. Harvey Siggs of the United Kingdom – a long-time partner of UNISDR and advocate for disaster risk reduction – emphasised the importance of sharing knowledge and working with the private sector for better and more available data on disasters.
Ms. Monique Pariat, Director General of DG ECHO, the humanitarian and disaster risk reduction arm of the European Commission – the European Union’s executive body – also took part. She underlined the role of local-level action in a European Commission plan for implementing the Sendai Framework, which adopted in June.
“The more we invest in disaster risk reduction, the more we save on humanitarian aid. We have to work more with local authorities to address their capacity for disaster risk reduction,” she said.