Addressing journalists at the Palais des Nations this afternoon, General Assembly President Joseph Deiss said that reducing vulnerability to natural hazards must be a top priority of the international community.
“Reducing disaster risks is essential if we are to consolidate progress made in development and poverty reduction,” he said, briefing correspondents on the outcome of the General Assembly Thematic Debate on disaster risk reduction, held on 9 February at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
“At the United Nations, there is a growing awareness that preventing disaster risks is a way to fight against the negative impacts of climate change,” he added, explaining that it was the first time that the Assembly held a thematic debate on disaster risk reduction.
He said an important part of reducing disaster risk reduction was becoming aware of risk itself, which was a key point raised by participants at the debate. He said given today’s economic climate, participants also discussed the need to act strategically when it came to financing disaster risk reduction measures.
“All this is even more complex for the most vulnerable countries in the developing world, who lack the financial means and often the technical knowledge and appropriate skills,” he said.
The thematic debate was organized by the Office of the President of the General Assembly with help from the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, and consisted of two panel discussions. The first panel focused on increasing investment for a safer future, which was followed by a second panel on improving the resilience of cities.
A summary by the General Assembly President is available on the General Assembly website, which Mr. Deiss said would inform the third session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, to be held in Geneva from May 8 to 13. The outcome of the Thematic Debate would also be used in Assembly’s preparations for the summit on sustainable development in 2012, known as “Rio + 20.”
Mr. Deiss was in Geneva to address the Human Rights Council on the situation in Libya, and to speak at the Conference on Disarmament, which had been taking place since 24 January.