Disaster-prone cities call for inclusion
Date: 20 May 2013
Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)
GENEVA, 20 May 2013 -- City mayors and municipal councilors from around the world today called on governments to ensure greater participation of local authorities in decision-making on mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in national policy and regulatory frameworks.
In consultations held a day before the opening of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, participants also stressed the importance of promoting greater public-private cooperation and financial investment in the battle to make cities more resilient to natural disasters and adaptable to climate change.
Many participants, in particular those from Africa and Latin America, highlighted the problem of the rapid growth and extreme vulnerability of informal settlements to natural disasters.
Mr. Javier Pava, the Director General of disaster risk activities in Bogota, Colombia - another Campaign champion city - deplored the fact that "it is the poorest segments of society living in these settlements that are most exposed to natural disasters. We must strengthen their resilience and eliminate this inequitable situation."
Ms. Khady Ba Niang, Mayor of Diamaguene Sicap Mbao, Senegal, also raised the issue and said after one month after her election she had to deal with a flood which threatened informal settlements and overwhelmed the drainage system.
Opening the meeting, UNISDR's Helena Molin Valdes who coordinates the Making Cities Resilient Campaign, said: "This represents a unique opportunity for local authorities from different regions to exchange experiences, lessons learnt and best practices and to agree on the way forward."
Participants, many of whom came from cities in disaster-prone countries such as Colombia, El Salvador, Iran, the Philippines and the United States that have championed the Making Cities Resilient Campaign, agreed to create a task force amongst themselves to formulate recommendations from a local government perspective for inclusion in the HFA2 consultation process.
Mr. Oscar Ortiz, the Mayor of Santa Tecla, El Salvador, Campaign role model city, underlined the success of the city-to-city exchanges of experiences and good practices and how to go from good intentions to implementation. Many cities in the region intend to create their own forum.
Overall, participants agreed that the Making Cities Resilient Campaign had been a success, with some 1,500 cities signing up to it across all five continents. There was consensus that it had contributed to the empowerment of local authorities in risk reduction as well as to collaboration between cities.
"It is crucial that national authorities invest in disaster risk reduction at the local level," said Mayor Ortiz. "Above all we must ensure that we place more emphasis on building resilience rather than focusing almost solely on disaster response."
Mr. Richard Walton, the Mayor of North Vancouver, Canada, described how severe flooding affected his region shortly after he took office and that since then he had pledged to be better prepared to address natural hazards in future. Mayor Walton, who recalled that experts predict an 8.5 earthquake will strike the Vancouver area any time within the next 100 years, detailed how he created a collaborative risk planning system across all 25 municipalities in his city.
Ms. Violeta Somera Seva, Senior Advisor to the Mayor of Makati City, Philippines, recalled the recommendations made at the Asia-Pacific Ministerial conference in 2012, in particular that local governments must have a voice in the formulation of HFA2.
Dr. Muhannad Harrah, the Environment Commissioner for Aqaba (Jordan), said that his citz had engaged all stakeholders in an integrated approach to risk reduction as part of the follow-up to the Aqaba Declaration agreed earlier this year at the first-ever Arab Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The Mayor of Mashad, Iran, Mr. Muhammad Pejman Syed, said that his city had implemented 30 projects in the framework of a comprehensive disaster risk reduction programme which could be replicated elsewhere.
The Director of Public Health and Safety for Dubai, Mr. Redha Salman, detailed Dubai's four-year strategic plan to build resilience, including regular prevention drills in schools and hospitals. He said that Dubai had acquired the latest early warning technology as it faced the threat of rising sea levels among other hazards.
Mr. Jaime Valdes, responsible for disaster risk reduction in the Telica, Quezalguaque and La Reynag communities in Nicaragua, called on the international community to do more to promote action for risk reduction at the community level.
There was general agreement that UNISDR's local government HFA implementation assessment tool was a useful instrument but that many more cities and countries needed to use it.