Over the past 10 years the world has suffered an increasing number of “natural” disasters affecting more than 2.5 billion people, killing 478,100 and causing economic losses of about $690bn. We may not necessarily be able to prevent natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and fl oods, but we can certainly act to prevent their disastrous effects on vulnerable communities.
The World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) coincides with the 10th anniversary of the great Hanshin-Awaji (Kobe) earthquake that claimed more than 6,000 lives and cost a stunning $100bn. It is an opportunity to share experiences in disaster reduction practices such as environmental management and look at ways of reducing risk worldwide.
The WCDR is a milestone event that will build on the fi ndings of the review of the Yokohama Strategy adopted 10 years ago. It will develop elements for an articulated programme for disaster risk reduction, addressing the objectives of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, essential to achieving Millennium Development Goals.
Building disaster resilient communities means that disaster reduction is everyone’s responsibility. A disaster reduction strategy is a global challenge that involves communities, schools, the media, researchers, scientists, nongovernmental organizations, various sections in governments and regional and international organizations including many agencies and programmes of the UN system. UNEP is the specialist programme in this fi eld and at the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction secretariat we are looking forward to closer collaboration with UNEP to follow up WCDR decisions and recommendations in order to strengthen environmental capacities in vulnerable countries and thus reduce risk and vulnerability while achieving sustainable development.
Sálvano Briceño is the Director of the Inter-Agency Secretariat of the International Strategy of Disaster Reduction UN/ISDR (see also www.unisdr.org)