By Denis McClean
Paris - A major initiative to develop a UN strategic plan of action for disaster risk reduction and resilience got underway today at UNESCO HQ as representatives from 20 UN agencies and programmes convened for a two-day UN High Level Retreat.
The goal is to produce a plan of action in four months and identify key milestones for the finalization, ownership and implementation.
In her opening remarks, UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova, said the meeting was an opportunity for creative thinking on how to strengthen the coherence of the UN system and to focus on strengthening resilience and disaster risk reduction as the first line of defense against climate change.
She also called for more emphasis on the interface between science and policy which was an issue that UNESCO was addressing through the establishment of a Scientific Advisory Board arising from Rio+20.
The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, said that when the 'Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters (HFA)' was developed in 2004 there was little emphasis on the role of the UN as a driving force for its implementation.
She said there was now a critical opportunity to take stock and for the UN to work together as one on assisting the development of the "HFA2" and managing risk in all sectors will be a crucial part of the post-2015 development agenda.
Ms. Wahlström drew attention to the role played by economic growth and development in contributing to future risk. "Development with all its positive elements is still the main driver of risk. This is an area where the UN has a huge opportunity to make a contribution to sustainable development."
She said more countries were realizing that disasters are a threat not just to the welfare of their citizens but also to national security as was pointed out recently by the President of Indonesia, Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, at the 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.
For many countries disaster risk reduction is part of the national security agenda. It is no longer an issue for poor countries alone and this is reflected in the strong growth of national platforms for disaster risk reduction in Europe and the Americas. "The more wealth which is put at risk, then the higher disaster risk reduction appears on the political agenda," she said.
The meeting is being attended by representatives of UNISDR, UNESCO, UNWTO, UNEP, WHO, World Bank/GFDRR, FAO, UNOOSA, UNDP, UN-HABITAT, WFP, ILO, UNICEF, IAEA, UNFPA, UNAIDS, UNOCHA, UNOPS, IOM and WMO. It is also being attended by representatives from the Swedish Red Cross, UN Nepal, ODI, the UN Chief Executive Board Secretariat, the Coordination Team of the UN High Level Task Force on Global Food Security.
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