Cities emerge top in United Nations-Sasakawa Award competition on innovative disaster risk reduction initiatives

Geneva, 12 May – The cities of San Francisco (Philippines), Santa Fe (Argentina), and District of North Vancouver (Canada), were unveiled as winners of the United Nations-Sasakawa Award for Disaster Risk Reduction last night at a special ceremony on the second last day of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva.

San Francisco, a small coastal city prone to typhoons, won US$25,000, and was chosen for its innovative use of the Purok system, a traditional method of self-organization within villages where members voluntarily contribute to a money bank used by those in need of emergency funds after a disaster. Also, with limited access to the Internet, cellphones and radios, the Purok system is used to disseminate information and risk assessments, with Purok coordinators acting as couriers of information to residents.

One of two cities receiving US$12,500 was Santa Fe, a city frequently hit by floods, which was recognized for effectively communicating risk to everyday citizens. In areas with many informal settlers, several thousand have been “regularized” and given certificates of occupancy, debt cancellation certificates and sale contracts for their homes. Scores of families in zones not protected by flood embankments have been relocated in this way.

The District of North Vancouver, which experienced a landslide in 2005, also received US$12,500. Mayor Richard Walton from the District of North Vancouver impressed delegates of the Global Platform at the Ignite Stage with his presentation on the city’s GIS (Geographic Information System) Website, where the public can access mapping, census, land, environmental, zoning, building and other valuable information that is stored in the District’s GIS. The city’s stated goal – acknowledged by the jury – is to provide “as much information where possible to our community.”

Other winners included the city of Bhubaneswar (India), and the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority, ERRA, an initiative of the Pakistan Government with support from the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), which both received a letter of recommendation. The Coordination Centre for Natural Disaster Prevention in Central America, CEPREDENAC, which is based in Guatemala, received a letter of merit.

“Each of the finalists have had a history of engaging in disaster risk reduction regardless of whether it was fashionable at the time or not,” said Margareta Wahlström. “Remarkably, they continued to engage in it even if funding was scarce, demonstrating their durability and a sense of innovation and commitment about how to make disaster risk reduction work even with limited resources.”

The winners were picked out of a pool of 25 nominees, by an independent jury of for eminent disaster risk reduction experts from the Americas, Asia Pacific, Africa and Europe, after three days of deliberation in Geneva, in April.

The ceremony was hosted by Swiss broadcast journalist Michel Cerutti, and the awards were handed out by Mayor Khalifa Sall from Dakar, Senegal, whose city is part of the UNISDR-led “Making Cities Resilient” campaign.
VI Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas, Cartagena, Colombia 20-22 June 2018 VI Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas, Cartagena, Colombia 20-22 June 2018.
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