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Poverty Times #3

Knowledge management and education for disaster reduction

by Badaoui Rouhban

Knowledge management and education can help communities in hazard-prone areas to gain a better grasp of the ways to cope with risks. Knowledge and innovation, education, formal and informal, are closely linked to disaster-reduction efforts. Disasters can strike at any time and it is the magnitude of the related impacts that will refl ect the level of preparedness and “education” of the exposed country and community. It is now widely agreed that achieving disaster-resilience is essentially a process of using knowledge and of learning at all levels.

Advancement, transfer and sharing of knowledge are key foundations for disaster risk management. When it comes to living with risk, we must embrace education in all its forms, from drills involving disaster simulations in primary and secondary schools to advanced university and post-graduate studies. We must also capitalise on traditional local knowledge about hazards. Nor can there be sustainable development without education in disaster reduction.

Education for disaster reduction and human security should not be a one-off affair, but rather a continuing process, offering individuals lessons in coping with hazards not just once but several times throughout their lives. Furthermore education and raising awareness of disaster risks must respond to society’s changing needs and focus on empowering individuals throughout their lives. Educating all sectors of society on disaster reduction actions that are based on application of sound scientific, engineering, and cultural principles to create sustainable systems therefore constitutes a long-term UNESCO goal.

UNESCO is well placed to address the challenge of mainstreaming knowledge applications and education in disaster prevention and preparedness into the broader agenda of education for sustainable development. Through its international coordination role in the forthcoming UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005- 2014) and drawing upon its experience of intersectoral programming, UNESCO will promote and support efforts to ensure that disaster education is integrated into international action to create a safer world. Indeed, multidisciplinary approaches should be fully embedded in the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

Dr. Badaoui Rouhban heads the Section for Disaster Reduction of the Natural Sciences Sector at UNESCO.