A view of the audience at this week's meeting in Cairo to align the Arab States strategy with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. (Photo: UNISDR)
By Berta Acero
Cairo, 13 November 2015
- A “road map” for the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 in the Arab Region in order to achieve a substantial reduction in disaster losses, was agreed this week in Cairo, Egypt.
More than 120 participants of governments, cities, academia, civil society, youth and international organizations convened to roll out a revised Arab Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction specific to the region’s needs and priorities and aligned with the targets of Sendai Framework.
The Arab Strategy is intended to revitalize the coordination mechanism for disaster risk coordination established in 2007 by the League of Arab States. Countries have also committed to completing the work of establishing national disaster loss data bases across the region where currently ten countries have functioning databases. They have also committed to establishing national and local strategies for managing disaster risk by 2020 as called for by the Sendai Framework.
“The Arab Strategy is a bridge between the national strategies and the international framework. Reducing disaster risk is not an easy path considering challenging realities and limited resources. However we need to continue working and build on our national strategy for disaster risk reduction,” said Mr. Mdahoma Moindjie, the general directorate of civil protection in Comoros.
“This is an optimal interface of 2015 agendas and, thus, the right time to do an effective integration of frameworks. Our region is committed to reduce disaster risks. Now we need to move from commitment to will,” said Ms. Fatma El Malah, former advisor to the League of Arab States Secretary-General on Climate Change.
Records on disaster losses indicate that between 1980 and 2014, more than 183,000 people died and 65 million people were affected by droughts, earthquakes, floods, and storms, and the Arab economy endured losses estimated at US$ 24 billion.
While the absolute number of disasters worldwide has almost doubled since 1980, the average number of disaster events has almost tripled during the same period in the Arab region. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events also increased.
This November unprecedented heavy rain and flash floods paralyzed daily life in northern Egypt and Jordan. At the same time, earlier this month two rare and destructive cyclones made landfall along the Gulf of Aden coast of Yemen, triggering massive rainfall flooding and causing damage and deaths along its way.
Access and reliability of risk data and hazards, the gap between the scientific community and the society, and the translation of commitments and policies into practical and funded solutions were the main challenges voiced by the participants.
“Statistical entities should be part and parcel in developing plans and policies in DRR in the Arab region”, stated Amb. Shahira Wahbi, Chief of Sustainable Development and International Cooperation at the League of Arab States (LAS) in Cairo.
The meeting also called for increased awareness of decision-makers, improved flow of information between the local and national institutions and sectors and exchanges of good practices across the region.
Recalling the Sharm El Sheikh Declaration on Disaster Risk Reduction and the Sendai Framework on DRR, the meeting launched the Arab Science and Technical Advisory Group on DRR (Arab-STAG) to support bridging the science-policy gap and facilitate the development of well-informed DRR plans and policies in the region.
“One of sustainable development’s main challenges is the poor interaction between science and policies. We need to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the rest of the society, including the decision makers”, highlighted Mr. Tarek Sadek, from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA).
“We are in dear need to put science in the service of the society”, emphasized Ms. Marlene Haddad, from the Lebanese Ministry of Interior.
The regional meeting convened in Cairo, from 8 to 10 November 2015 under the auspices of the League of Arab States and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). It was attended by representatives from Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Sudan, Tunisia and UAE.