Robert Glasser, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, calls on students at Beijing Normal University to take up the 'noble pursuit' of disaster risk reduction (Photo: UNISDR)
By Andy McElroy
BEIJING, 12 May 2017 – Young researchers in China have been urged to take up the ‘noble pursuit’ of applying science and technology to save lives and protect livelihoods from disasters.
The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mr. Robert Glasser, called on students to develop scientific evidence that informs policy and action to prevent and reduce disaster risk and losses.
In an address on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction to 100 students at Beijing Normal University, Mr. Glasser said: “I can think of few more noble pursuits for you to take up in your careers than the development of research that helps saves lives through reducing disaster risk.”
He told the aspiring ‘Sendai generation’ of young scientists that it was important to transcend research silos: “One of my main messages is to emphasize the need to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to developing DRR solutions. Greater disaster resilience at community level requires traditional science disciplines and the social sciences working together.”
Mr. Glasser was speaking ahead of the signing of a statement of cooperation between his United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and Beijing Normal University.
The statement includes an agreement between UNISDR and the university to co-organize the 2nd Asian Science and Technology Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction, in Beijing, in April 2018.
The conference will review Asia’s implementation of the global science and technology roadmap for disaster risk reduction that was adopted by the international community in January 2016. Its outcome will also help shape the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction that will be co-organized by UNISDR and the Government of Mongolia, in Ulaanbaatar, in July 2018.
Before the address, Beijing Normal University’s President, Professor Dong Qi, told Mr. Glasser that the university had ‘big ambitions’ in the field of disaster risk reduction.
“Research in disaster risk management, environmental, ecological and geophysical studies is already well established here. However, we want to do more to help save lives in China and make a positive contribution for the whole world,” he said.
Mr. Glasser said such an ambition was “extremely relevant” in view of the many challenges the world faces in preventing and reducing disaster risk and losses, particularly in terms of climate change.
Beijing Normal University is one of China’s most prestigious higher education institutions. It has 25,000 students, of whom 15,000 are postgraduates. It is also home to the Academy of Disaster Reduction and Emergency Management, an 82-strong faculty of experts.
The university’s Vice-President, Professor Peijun Shi, is the Chair of UNISDR’S Asia Science, Technology and Academia Advisory Group (ASTAAG). Professor Saini Yang, Director of the university’s International Centre for Collaborative Research on Disaster Risk Reduction, is the Secretary of ASTAAG.
The Sendai Framework, a wide-ranging, 15-year agreement adopted by the international community in 2015, seeks to tackle risk in order to rein in global disaster impacts in terms of lives lost, the number of people affected, and economic damage. It puts a strong focus in harnessing the power of science and technology to achieve this.
The role of science and technology will be a key theme at the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which will draw thousands of delegates to Cancun, Mexico from 22 to 26 May.
Mr. Glasser’s visit to China came as the country marked National Disaster Risk Reduction Day. He expressed his condolences on the loss of at least eight lives in Thursday’s earthquake in Xinjiang Province and praising the country’s commitment to capping economic losses.
“Yesterday’s earthquake was a reminder that China is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world but is also a role model for others to follow. The country has adopted the global plan for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and is unique in setting a target of 1.3% of GDP for economic losses from disasters,” he said in a statement.
The National Day falls on the anniversary of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in which 68,712 people died and 17,912 were listed as missing. China covers 7% of the world’s land mass but suffers one-third of all recorded earthquakes.