The head of UNISDR, Mami Mizutori, and the Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, declare open the European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction
By Denis McClean
ROME, 22 November, 2018 – The Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, today declared that “disaster risk reduction is fundamental for all governments” as he gave his keynote address at the opening of the European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Over 800 representatives from 55 countries have registered for the two-day event which includes the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus for the first time.
“Italy has always believed in the strategy of the Sendai Framework. My presence here today proves that we believe in it. We must achieve a collaboration at national and European level to achieve its objectives,” he said in reference to the global plan for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
Mr. Conte outlined Italy’s disaster risk profile in graphic detail referring to Italy as the European country with the highest number of volcanoes and highlighting the threat posed by seismic activity to the country’s cultural heritage.
He also spoke of ecological risk and the high incidence of floods and landslides across the country which resulted in the loss of 33 lives in recent weeks and impacted eleven regions. Drought conditions combined with sometimes criminal behavior was leading to forest fires.
He also identified new risks created by building materials used in the past which rendered critical infrastructure and the country’s cultural heritage vulnerable to disasters. The country is spending heavily on response to disasters such as the recent Genoa bridge collapse which resulted in 43 deaths. He praised the work of the country’s National Civil Protection Agency and emphasized that “prevention more than ever must be the key word in our policies.”
The Prime Minister also stressed that it was important to raise public awareness and this would be a key element in the implementation of a new national plan, particularly in outreach to schools through the Department of Education.
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, extended her condolences to the people and government of Italy for the tragic loss of life in recent extreme weather which resulted in floods and landslides causing large-scale damage and loss.
“Alongside the devastating loss of loved ones, communities across the country are now struggling to build back better in the wake of large economic losses and damage to the environment and critical infrastructure,” Ms. Mizutori said.
“A critical element in getting these strategies right is understanding how data can help to refine a country’s risk profile and inform disaster risk management policy. Disaster loss data bases now exist in 60% of countries in Europe and 32 countries have enacted legislation on disaster risk reduction in the context of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism,” she said.
Ms. Mizutori observed that this was the first European Forum to take place since the launch of the Sendai Framework Monitor in March.
“I hope that the next two days will encourage even greater use of the Monitor among countries represented here so that we ensure it reaches its full potential as a global resource for guiding policy and measuring progress in achieving the Sendai targets and the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Following the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Conte and Special Representative Mizutori, took part in a 6.3 earthquake simulation exercise organised by Italy’s Civil Protection Agency as part of its education programme for the general public.