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UNISDR welcomes Bloomberg appointment

The vital role of cities as engines of climate resilience has been recognised with the appointment of the former mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg, as Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
6 Feb 2014 News briefs

Winter wild-fires: Norway’s new risk

Freakish winter wildfires in Norway have underlined the importance of adopting a multi-hazard approach to disaster risk management in an era of changing climate.
5 Feb 2014 News briefs

Venice Mayor highlights Cities Campaign at C40

Mayor Giorgio Orsoni of Venice, Italy – a UNISDR “Making Cities Resilient” Campaign Champion – emphasized the Cities Campaign in building resilient and adaptable cities during his speech today at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group Mayors Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.
5 Feb 2014 Press release

Senegal PM reiterates HFA commitment

The Prime Minister of Senegal has reiterated her country’s commitment to implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) during high level talks with the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction. Prime Minister Aminata Touré said that Senegal’s international commitments were consistent with domestic priorities under the country’s Economic and Social Development Plan. In the presence of nine of her key ministers, the Prime Minister told Special Representative Ms Margareta Wahlström that good governance and institutions were crucial to build resilience in the face of continued climate change.
31 Jan 2014 News briefs

Americas parliament lays down resilience law

Latin America has taken a step towards mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into national development policy instruments and poverty reduction strategies. The Latin American Parliament has adopted a protocol on disaster risk management that obliges its 23 member states to incorporate guiding principles of building resilience into existing or emerging legislation. The adoption of the protocol comes ahead of the 2014 Americas Regional Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction, to be held in Ecuador, in May.
30 Jan 2014 News briefs

Making Paris resilient to floods

The French capital, Paris, has been invited to join the “Making Cities Resilient” Campaign by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction as a new OECD analysis reveals the extent of the city’s exposure to a repeat of a major flood disaster. The OECD Review on Flood Risk Management of the Seine River – commissioned by Etablissement Public Territorial de Bassin (EPTB) Seine Grands Lacs, with the Ministry of Ecology and Ile-de-France Regional Council – found that a repeat of the 1910 flood could affect up to five million residents and cause Euros 30 billion worth of damages. Speaking at the launch of the report, UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström, said: “Making Paris resilient is an important strategic goal for France. Floods displace more people worldwide, create more unemployment and disrupt city life more than any other category of disaster.
28 Jan 2014 News briefs

Russia's G8 Presidency to focus on disaster risk

The Head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Margareta Wahlström, today welcomed Russia’s declared intention of using its G8 Presidency to promote integrated disaster risk management and to focus the world’s major economies on cooperation in developing a new global agreement on disaster risk reduction to succeed the existing Hyogo Framework for Action which expires in March 2015. Ms. Wahlström said: “Russia’s G8 Presidency could be a major turning point in the struggle to gain political commitment to reducing exposure to disaster events worldwide and speeding up implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action. Economic losses from disasters are out of control and the timing is right for the G8 members to take concrete measures to mitigate climate change and to reduce the risk of major disaster events such as floods and earthquakes which disrupt the lives of over 200 million people every year.” At a meeting of the Gaidar Forum in Moscow last week, the Russian G8 Sherpa, Alexei Kvasov, said the core objectives of the Russian G8 Presidency will include global management of natural and man-made disaster risks along with global health security, the fights against drugs and global terrorism. He said the motto of Russia’s G8 Presidency is “Managing risks for sustainable growth in a secure world.” Ms. Wahlström said UNISDR and its partners look forward to contributing to the success of the Russian G8 Presidency and building on expressions of support at previous G8 Summits for implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters.
22 Jan 2014 Press release

Pacific forges ahead on joint disaster-climate strategy

United Nations agencies have joined together to contribute towards the development a new Strategy for Disaster and Climate Resilient Development in the Pacific (SRDP). As a core partner of the Technical Working Group for the new Strategy along with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) hosted and engaged expert representatives from UNDP, UNICEF, WHO and UN Women amongst others, to join in an interactive engagement workshop on 20 January 2014. The workshop formed part of a series of ongoing stakeholder engagements to facilitate the development of a new strategy to succeed the current ‘Pacific Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Management Framework for Action’ and ‘Pacific Islands Framework for Action on Climate Change’, both due to expire in 2015.
21 Jan 2014 News briefs

‘Useful and used’ data key to building resilience

The future resilience of the planet rests upon shortening the distance between emerging scientific evidence and actionable policy. A High-Level Panel, titled ‘Perspectives on the Value of Earth Observations’, agreed on the importance of the “usability of information” in the International Strategy of Disaster Reduction and other global efforts to strengthen resilience. Mr Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), said collaboration and coordination was crucial: “We need to join up the dots about what we know about how resources can be used and not be used in future. “The world really is heading terribly in the wrong direction. We need to bring science to decision making. And in such a complex world, we can no longer afford the luxury of taking very narrow, specific responses.
20 Jan 2014 News briefs

Typhoon Haiyan losses trigger major new proposal on catastrophe insurance for the Philippines

20 January 2014, GENEVA – The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has teamed up with the global insurance industry to propose a major new approach to catastrophe risk financing for the Philippines in advance of this year’s typhoon season as the country continues to deal with the economic fall-out of $13 billion in losses from Typhoon Haiyan/ Yolanda. The Head of UNISDR, Margareta Wahlström, said today: “The Philippines is hit by over 20 typhoons every year. What is needed is a simple scheme which will provide valuable protection to people and municipalities before the next typhoon season. In order to be successful it will require mandatory take-up by local government units but it will make them masters of their own destiny when it comes to responding to relief and recovery needs in the wake of a major disaster event.” The catastrophe scheme developed by global insurance giants Willis Re and Munich Re will be presented tomorrow in Manila at a High Level Forum on Strengthening Disaster Risk Insurance in the Philippines. The Philippines Risk and Insurance Scheme for Municipalities (PRISM) is a fast track way of providing budgetary support in the aftermath of a major natural disaster. Rowan Douglas, CEO Capital, Science and Policy Practice, Willis Group, explained: “Contrary to traditional insurance the payment of claims is not based on actual losses but on a pre-agreed amount when a specific trigger is met. For example, insurance will be paid out in the event of rainfall exceeding a certain amount, or wind speed exceeding a certain threshold.” Mr. Douglas is a member of the UNISDR Private Sector Advisory Group. Ernst Rauch, head of the Corporate Climate Centre of Munich Re, said: “These parametric triggers are based on industry standards and can evolve as more information becomes available. Once one trigger has been exceeded a payment will be made through the scheme manager to the local government unit and this can be used for rescue, relief, recovery or re-building depending on needs assessments. It can become a key part of broader national catastrophe risk management programme. Cover can be adjusted to reward disaster risk reduction efforts undertaken by municipalities.” Economic losses in the Philippines are part of an upward global trend. According to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, economic losses from disasters are “out of control.”
20 Jan 2014 Press release

Study outlines EU approach to loss databases

– A comprehensive study has outlined the path towards a standardized European approach to systematically record and manage disaster loss databases. The report, titled ‘Recording Disaster Losses: Recommendations for a European approach’, is in response to the European Union’s desire to find a mechanism to record systematically disaster losses and provide European loss data to international initiatives so that global trends can be charted. “Risk assessment requires accurate recording of previous disasters and in particular the associated losses in terms of human casualties, property and environment damage as well as economic loss,” the report says.
16 Jan 2014 News briefs

SDGs open way for ‘resilient development’

“Disaster risk reduction should not be seen only as an imperative to protecting investments in development, but also as an opportunity for a transformative shift towards resilient development.” This rousing statement from disaster-prone Bangladesh was one of several calls from governments for disaster and climate risk considerations to be incorporated at every stage of development. The seventh session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals heard consistent support for the integration of disaster risk management within each sector that may be addressed by the goals, such as poverty eradication, energy, health, food security.
15 Jan 2014 News briefs

Pooled knowledge key to food security

More than 100 of the world’s leading food system researchers, practitioners and policymakers heard today how dynamic new approaches are strengthening risk management and resilience. The forum, titled ‘Visualising the World’s Food Systems to Better Manage Risk and Resilience’, was told that ‘the new normal’ of fast-accelerating demand for food, energy and water in a changing climate and era of volatility had potentially devastating human and environmental consequences. As the global population grows from 7 billion to almost 9 billion by 2040, and the number of middle-class consumers increases by 3 billion over the next 20 years, the demand for resources will rise exponentially.
14 Jan 2014 News briefs

Local self-assessment leads to resilience

UNISDR’s Local Government Self-Assessment Tool (LGSAT) is an effective tool to assess a city’s institutional capacity to build resilience, a new report has found. The study said the LGSAT opened up dialogue and enabled the establishment of baseline data for the Ten Essentials of UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient Campaign “that can be used to track progress as the cities continue to build disaster and climate resilience”. The report, titled ‘Assessing City Resilience: Lessons from using the UNISDR Local Government Self-Assessment Tool in Thailand and Vietnam’, said the LGSAT enabled local discussions to take place within an internationally-applied framework of common issues. The study looked at four cities – Hue and Lao Cai, in Vietnam, and Udon Thani and Hat Yai, in Thailand – and identified gaps between policy and practice, and between planning and implementation.
10 Jan 2014 News briefs

GETI supports model Haiyan recovery effort

The Philippines province of Cebu is emerging as a model for recovery four months after Typhoon Haiyan devastated large parts of the country. Cebu Resilience Taskforce Coordinator Baltz Tribunalo identified several factors behind progress, including vital capacity building support from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). Expert trainers from UNISDR’s Global Education and Training Institute (GETI), based in Incheon, South Korea and International Recovery Platform, based in Kobe, Japan, provided hands-on mentoring at a Disaster Recovery Planning workshop in Cebu City, drawing on the province’s recovery plans as well as feeding in lessons learnt on resilience building from around the world. “The most useful element of the training was its consistent message that disaster risk reduction has to have a central part in the complete package of recovery and rehabilitation,” said Mr Tribunalo, who is also adviser to Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III on climate smart disaster risk management.
10 Jan 2014 News briefs

Hard-hit herders move to reduce their disaster risk

Herders whose livestock was devastated by a cyclone are taking steps to reduce their vulnerability and exposure to future disasters. A combination of freakish freezing temperatures, high winds and severe floods after a cyclone in November in Puntland, Somalia, hit several communities hard. Dozens of people died and up to one million livestock were wiped out, according to a post-cyclone operations update from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In the wake of the disaster some herders have sought to reduce their disaster risk by finding areas that afford better protection from extreme weather events for themselves and their livestock.
8 Jan 2014 News briefs

Philippines unveils dedicated disaster risk budget for 2014

The Philippines’ national budget for 2014 has ensured dedicated funding for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation programmes. The move, just weeks after the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, represents a significant change in the country’s funding priorities to include proactive disaster risk management as well as a focus on response and rehabilitation. A new US$293 million National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund replaces what was previously known as the Calamity Fund, which had a previous budget of US$158 million.
30 Dec 2013 News briefs

Dominican Republic approves disaster risk plan

The Dominican Republic has adopted a new ‘National Plan for Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management’. The President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, approved the plan that will define policy guidelines and basic principles for public and private institutions and civil society organizations. The plan focuses on the implementation of programmes that reduce disaster risk, ensure the safety of citizens and protect the country’s economic, social, environmental and cultural heritage.
26 Dec 2013 News briefs

Local leaders pinpoint key to early warning success

Local leaders in cyclone-hit Odisha said their successful early warning ahead of the recent Cyclone Phailin was down to good information that was delivered on time and acted upon quickly. On a tour of cyclone-ravaged Ganjam district, the Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Ms Margareta Wahlström, heard that 30,000 people had been evacuated in less than 30 hours. The District Collector of Ganjam, Mr Krishan Kumar, said the prompt movement of people from villages within 5km of the coast was crucial in dramatically reducing the number of casualties.
24 Dec 2013 News briefs

Cyclone evacuation to become a global example

The effective evacuation of almost 1 million people in Odisha ahead of Cyclone Phailin will be highlighted as a global example in the lead-up to the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, in 2015. The Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Ms Margareta Wahlström, lauded Odisha for its ‘landmark success’ actions in limiting the number of deaths directly caused by the cyclone to 21. “We have started work on documenting the Odisha success story and will highlight it as an example at the World Conference. It is easy to talk about problems and failures. We have to bring into people’s minds what works,” Ms Wahlström said.
23 Dec 2013 News briefs

Historic snow storm challenges Middle East preparedness

The worst snow storm in decades affected large parts of the Middle East and tested disaster preparedness and management in the region. ‘Alexa’ affected several states, including Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Syria, causing evacuations, blackouts, damage to thousands of homes, road closures, and livestock losses. Snow fell in the Egyptian capital Cairo for the first time in more than 100 years ago, according to local news reports. In Palestine, heavy flooding across the Gaza Strip displaced approximately 10,000 people to temporary shelters. Heavy snow cut off dozens of communities across the West Bank and tens of thousands of homes were left without electricity. Significant loss of livestock occurred.
18 Dec 2013 News briefs

Cebu ready to build back better

The Philippines Province of Cebu prides itself on its zero casualty policy when it comes to disasters. As of yesterday, it had recorded just 73 of the 6,057 deaths so far attributed to Typhoon Haiyan despite the widespread damage and loss to housing, critical infrastructure and agriculture especially in northern Cebu where Haiyan made two of its six landfalls in the Philippines. Governor Hilario Davide III explained: “I would credit the low fatalities first to the people themselves and the local government units who heeded our advice and warnings to evacuate people from the areas that were most vulnerable to the typhoon.” Some estimates put the number of people who evacuated in Cebu as high as one million. The Governor also said that the earthquake which hit in October may have been a strange blessing in disguise as it gave people a sharp reminder of the threat posed by natural hazards.
16 Dec 2013 News briefs

Bieber puts spotlight on disaster zone schools

Pop idol Justin Bieber paid a surprise visit to the San Jose Elementary School in Tacloban this week. He stayed about 30 minutes, hugged the kids, sang a few songs, signed some autographs and landed on the front pages of all the Philippine newspapers. If nothing else, his visit brought a spotlight to bear on the precarious lives of thousands of children with no school to go to for the last four weeks. Over 600 schools were destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan. Despite a government instruction for classes to re-open on December 2, many, such as the Anibong Elementary School overlooking the ship-strewn shoreline of the neighbourhoods known as barangays 68 and 70, remain packed with evacuees.
13 Dec 2013 News briefs

UN sets the stage for adoption of a new global agreement on disaster risk in 2015

The United Nations General Assembly has set the stage for a new global agreement on reducing the impact of disasters by confirming that the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will take place in Sendai City, Japan from 14 to 18 March 2015. The main item on the Conference agenda is agreement on a successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action which was adopted at the last such Conference in 2005 within weeks of the Indian Ocean tsunami and which was attended by representatives from 168 UN Member States. Over 8,000 people are expected to attend the 2015 event including heads of State, government ministers, parliamentarians, academics, NGO and other civil society representatives. UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlström said: “The 3rd World Conference provides us with a rare opportunity to forge universal agreement on how to build disaster resilience across all sectors of society. It is particularly important that we have a strong urban focus as we expect 75% of the world’s population to be living in towns and cities by 2050.” Sendai City is the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture in the Tōhoku region with a population of one million people. In March 2011, it was one of the cities affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, which killed over 15,000 people and is one of the costliest disasters in history. Ms. Emiko Okuyama, the Mayor of Sendai City, today unveiled the Conference logo. She said: “This logo was designed by a local designer and represents people joining hands to create a chain of action. The five colours stand for the five priorities of Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015): Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters which brought the concept of resilience into the mainstream of development thinking. We look forward to hosting the Conference and to welcoming the world to the Tohoku region which has made a strong recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake.”
12 Dec 2013 Press release

Re-location, re-location, re-location…

The ground floor patients including those in intensive care had a narrow escape. Indeed, as the tidal surge broke through the hospital’s perimeter wall security guards had to come and rescue the director of Leyte Island’s largest public hospital, the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC), as he struggled waist deep in water in his hospital residence overlooking the sea. Dr. Cirilo R. Galindez who is now on secondment from Luzon as acting hospital director, describes the frenetic activity following the slow realization that the hospital was about to be inundated by sea-water as a result of Typhoon Haiyan in the early dawn hours of November 8. “In about twenty minutes they had to move all the patients from the ground floor to the second floor including those in the intensive care unit. The staff did a superb job and there were no casualties among the patients,” he said.
12 Dec 2013 News briefs

Incheon clicks into DRR advocacy action

A major ‘City to City Learning’ forum on resilience heralds a renewed effort of global knowledge sharing ahead of the post-2015 international framework for disaster risk reduction. Ten cities in South Asia and Iran and 27 from the Republic of Korea have agreed to share experience and consolidate their commitment for local action, as part of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s (UNISDR) Making Cities Resilient Campaign. The 37 cities focused on urban risk management, risk sensitive urban planning, local action and critical infrastructure safety with specific focus on school safety as part of their discussions on the post-2015 framework.
12 Dec 2013 News briefs

Private sector to the fore in Haiyan response

Private sector representatives took their place today alongside the usual line-up of NGOs and international organizations who came together to brainstorm a rehabilitation plan for those parts of Cebu province which suffered significant losses because of Typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Yolanda). Governor Hilario Davide III said the plan would be ready for launch in mid-January and praised the private sector for its active partnership with the provincial government in both the relief effort and now in the planning for the rehabilitation phase. “Public-private partnerships will become increasingly important as we move from the response phase to rehabilitation and seek to build back better,” he said.
11 Dec 2013 News briefs

New legislation strengthens EU disaster risk management

The European Parliament today paved the way for stronger cooperation in responding to disasters by adopting new legislation on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism set to come into force at the beginning of 2014. The EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Ms Kristalina Georgieva, welcomed the vote, which she said would benefit Europe's citizens and communities globally. “A rising trend in natural and man-made disasters over the past decade has demonstrated that coherent, efficient and effective policies on disaster management are needed now more than ever”. Ms Georgieva said.
10 Dec 2013 News briefs

Tacloban to call typhoon summit

The City of Tacloban which accounts for almost 50% of the dead and displaced in the Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) disaster, is to hold a summit inviting mayors and other public representatives to come to the city to talk about the lessons learned for disaster risk management. The announcement comes with recognition by the city authorities that there were several barriers to compliance with evacuation procedures despite many sweeps through the most exposed neighbourhoods – or Barangays as they are known in the Philippines – by teams of local volunteers and officials led by the Barangay captains. Three days before Typhoon Haiyan struck, a meeting was called by the City Mayor, Alfred Romualdez, of all 138 Barangay Captains to be briefed on the coming storm and they were all instructed to order their constituents to evacuate. The meeting was reportedly attended by about 75% of all Barangay captains.
10 Dec 2013 News briefs

30 days on Tacloban remembers

Sunday marked thirty days since Typhoon Haiyan (known as Yolanda locally) tried to rip the heart out of the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines with winds from hell that sucked the sea along with them to take the lives of thousands and leave millions homeless. The strength of the Philippine people in the wake of one of the worst typhoons ever to make landfall, is something special to behold. Yesterday they even managed to turn on some Christmas lights in the centre of Tacloban, the commercial heart of the disaster zone, despite the continuing curfew and absence of street lighting. The predominantly Catholic city remembered its dead on the Second Sunday of Advent as hundreds packed into the partly roofless Church of Santa Ninõ to give thanks for the gift of life and to receive the only kind of psychological support available here for those who have been traumatized by the loss of family and friends: the age old solace of religion.
9 Dec 2013 News briefs
The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will take place in 2015 The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will take place in 2015.
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