Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, presents Franco Gabrielli, Prefect of Rome, with a trophy marking his appointment as a Disaster Risk Reduction Champion at Friday's ceremony in the Italian capital (Photo: Protezione Civile)
ROME, 3 July, 2015 – The former leader of the Italian Civil Protection Department was today named a Disaster Risk Reduction Champion by UNISDR in recognition of his tireless efforts to deal with the threats posed by hazards such as the devastating Abruzzo earthquake of 2009.
Franco Gabrielli, who is now prefect of the Italian capital Rome, received the title from UNISDR’s head Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.
“It is a great pleasure to be able to take this opportunity to honour the work and engagement of Prefect Franco Gabrielli, “ Ms. Wahlström said at the ceremony in Rome.
UNISDR bestows the honorary title of Disaster Risk Reduction Champion on individuals who deploy their political influence to lobby for risk-sensitive policies in their cities and countries, as well as globally. Mr. Gabrielli is the fourth champion in Europe after Kristalina Georgieva, European Commission Vice-President for Budget and Human Resources, Tarja Halonen, former president of Finland and Gay Mitchell, an Irish former member of the European parliament.
Mr. Gabrielli, 55, began his career in the Italian police and eventually became leader of the country’s anti-terrorism and internal security departments.
In April 2009, following the earthquake that struck the eastern region of Abruzzo, and in particular its capital L’Aquila, he was nominated prefect and deputy commissioner. In that role he dealt with the disaster’s aftermath and strove to ensure that recovery efforts helped to reduce future risk.
In May 2010, Mr. Gabrielli joined the Department of Civil Protection as a deputy head, before taking the helm that November. He was appointed prefect of Rome in April this year.
“Since I left the Italian Civil Protection Department, I have not set aside the firm belief that the role of each and every one of us is essential to disseminate risk knowledge and a wise culture of prevention among the citizens. On the contrary this belief is strengthened every single day,” Mr. Gabrielli said at the ceremony.
“I have clearly perceived that the concept of resilience is finally turning from being a word often invoked into a true practice implemented at local level: today I commit myself to continue to work in order to raise rapidly, in Italy, the number of communities that are able to reduce the risks and to face calamities which will, unfortunately, continue to strike our country in the future,” he added.
Prefects are the top representatives of a country’s central government in a region, and play a key role as a go-between with local authorities. That is particularly important for disaster risk reduction, where national policies need to be crafted and implemented hand in hand with local administrations, a process that is overseen by what are known as National Platforms.
“Prefect Gabrielli has been an important partner to UNISDR for many years now, making him a true champion of disaster resilience. During his mandate at the Italian Civil Protection, and as coordinator of the Italian National Platform for DRR, Prefect Gabrielli has engaged with us in many different ways, including providing high level commitment on the topics of functioning of the national platforms, flood risk management, disaster risk awareness and building resilience at the local level,” Ms. Wahlström said.
“The local level in particular is also where Prefect Gabrielli has been actively involved. Local governments in Italy are some of the most active ones,” she added.
Enhancing local-level resilience is a core goal of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a 15-year global agreement adopted in March this year. UNISDR’s “Making Cities Resilient” campaign, which involves almost 2,600 communities around the world, is a driver of that effort.
During Friday’s event in Rome, two new cities signed up to the campaign: the northern port of Genoa, and Messina, in northeastern Sicily. There are already more than 150 Italian municipalities involved.
“The Italian National Platform for DRR has been seen by many of our partners as an example to follow, and within this context, Italy has generously shared its expertise through exchanges of experts with other countries such as Albania, Belarus and Turkey,” said Ms. Wahlström.
Working together with UNISDR, one of Mr. Gabrielli’s major accomplishments was the European Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction in Milan last year, during Italy’s presidency of the European Union. It brought together ministers from 40 countries to voice Europe’s continued engagement in building disaster resilience.