UNISDR chief Mr. Robert Glasser (left) meets with staff from Mexico's National Civil Protection System, including its head Mr. Luis Felipe Puente (centre left)
MEXICO CITY, 12 January 2016 – UNISDR chief Mr. Robert Glasser has hailed 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction host Mexico as a shining example of how to manage the threats posed by hazards.
“The way Mexico manages disaster risks shows the effectiveness of its civil protection system and its enormous capacity to mobilise and unite all Mexicans against disasters,” said Mr. Glasser, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.
He was speaking during this week’s conference of Mexico’s National Civil Protection System, the importance of which was underscored by the participation of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who held a bilateral meeting with Mr. Glasser to discuss this coming May’s Global Platform.
Created in the wake of the 1985 earthquake which devastated Mexico City and killed at least 5,000 people, the National Civil Protection System is a unique pillar of the country’s approach to disaster management, and is placed directly under the control of the president’s office.
“It is modern, solid and one of the best recognized prevention and response systems in the world,” said President Peña Nieto in his conference address.
“It has taken us some time to build it but it works, is efficient and involves all Mexicans. Today, Civil Protection works at the Federal, State and Municipal levels and is supported by strong legal instruments and good monitoring systems. It is a vital system to help us face not only natural emergencies but any threat that can put our country in danger.”
Among the many risks that he cited, climate change is at the top of the agenda, given that it is forecast to stoke the frequency and intensity of weather hazards.
“Climate change is creating new risks and we need to rethink the way we produce and consume, the way we are doing things, as the challenges ahead are big,” said President Peña Nieto, who ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change last year and is a vocal proponent of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Hurricanes and floods, in particular, disrupt the life of millions of Mexicans every year. In October 2015, Mexico’s Pacific coast was hit by Hurricane Patricia. Despite being the second-most intense tropical cyclone on record it caused only a handful of casualties, thanks to the country’s well-performing early warning system, which enabled the population of the affected zones to evacuate in time.
Civil Protection staff also hold regular drills to constantly train the public and reduce their vulnerabilities a raft of hazards, including non-weather threats such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The first building block of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted by the international community in March 2015.
The 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, taking place from 22 to 26 May in Cancún, is the most important multilateral forum of its kind and a key step for implementing the Sendai Framework’s goals of reducing loss of life and economic losses from disasters caused by natural and human-induced hazards.
At the Global Platform, the government of Mexico is set to mobilise high-level political commitments to curb economic losses from disasters. According to fresh preliminary figures from insurance sector giant Swiss Re, total economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters reached to US$158 billion in 2016, representing a 68-percent increase on 2015 but remaining below the previous 10-year average of US$175 billion.
Several thousand representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society are expected to attend the Global Platform in the Caribbean resort city, which has learned to confront hurricanes in order to protect its vibrant tourist industry.
The choice of Mexico to host the Global Platform is particularly symbolic because the country’s 1985 earthquake was one trigger for a gradual international shift from treating disasters as a matter of relief operations to confronting risk head on – with the Sendai Framework being the most risk-focused global agreement ever.