UNISDR blogs on the view from Bhutan: “What do you value?”
Thimphu, Bhutan -- While communities work diligently to protect vulnerable populations and critical infrastructure, they must remember the other things they would like to see protected -- sacred forests, cultural monuments and heritage sites.
The Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs of the Royal Government of Bhutan, in cooperation with the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, is convening an International Conference on Disaster Management and Cultural Heritage, “Living in Harmony with the Four Elements,” from 12 to 14 December.
Bhutan lies in one of the most seismically active zones of the world, and fragile geological conditions and extreme climate makes Bhutan inherently vulnerable to flash floods, landslides and forest fires. A considerable number of glaciers in the north of the country makes it vulnerable to “glacial lake outburst floods.” There are 2,794 glacial lakes in Bhutan, of which 562 are associated with glaciers, and 25 of them are potentially dangerous. Any outburst from those glacial lakes could lead to flooding downstream.
The value-based approach to disaster risk reduction addresses two key issues – what people choose to protect, and how people go about protecting them. This approach makes clear that risk reduction and determining a community’s acceptable level of risk are inherently value-based. The International Conference on Disaster Management and Cultural Heritage is an important stepping stone in efforts to support people-centred choices, and promoting local knowledge and institutions.
“Cultural values are an untapped resource for risk reduction,” says Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction. “We must adapt to a changing climate and face disaster risk with all the resources we can make available. We look forward to learning more from the
Bhutanese experience and vision, to find innovative models for building resilience.”
In the run-up to the Third Session of the Global Platform in May 2011, UNISDR and the community of disaster risk reduction practitioners have made steady progress in fulfilling the call for community engagement and investment in local initiatives made at the Second Session in June 2009. The Making Cities Resilient Campaign has engaged Mayors and local authorities around the world. Civil society continues to bring “Views from the Frontline.” The value of ecosystem protection is becoming clearer and a new Community Practitioners Platform for Resilience has been working to bring community voices and assets to the task of risk reduction.
While the people of Bhutan may be few, the value-based approach they offer has relevance globally. A favored Bhutanese fable tells the tale of how four friends -- a peacock, a monkey, a rabbit and an elephant, all hungry work together to plant a fruit tree. Each contributes what it can. When the tree is grown, they stand upon each other’s back forming a ladder to reach the fruit. The value of each contribution was essential to the project. And the fruits, reportedly, were delicious!