Since the adoption of the Hyogo Framework for Action in 2005, greater awareness of the importance of reducing disaster risk has emerged among different stakeholders. Overall, in the Arab region, there has been some progress on political and national commitment to risk reduction, developing of institutional mechanisms and strategies, enhancing early warning systems and building preparedness and response capacities. However, the commitment often does not translate to operational capacities or commitment of resources to effectively implement the strategies or integrate risk reduction in development plans. There is weak progress on education and public awareness as well as on collection, availability and accessibility of data and information risk and vulnerabilities, tools and methodologies for disaster risk reduction and multi-risk and multi-hazard approaches.
Globally, there has been a broad consensus on the essential role local governments can play to bridge the above gap. It is in fact at the local level that development planning is expected to first take place, and the integration between disaster risk reduction and development is supposed to be realized. Emphasis on disaster risk reduction at the local level is also becoming stronger as cities of all sizes are subjected to rapid population growth, environmental degradation and overall increased conditions of vulnerability. However, while cities and urban areas currently attract more attention due to their high concentration of risk, local and regional authorities have an equally important role to play in medium and small-scale cities, towns, and local rural areas.
In this context, UNISDR is preparing for the Biannual World Campaign for Disaster Risk Reduction 2010 – 2011 “Building Resilient Cities, Addressing Urban Risk”. This campaign will engage local governments and technical experts on urban development and planning all over the world to increase their awareness to urban risks and commit to activities that make urban development sustainable. Climate change adaptation and safe schools and hospitals are focus areas of the campaign. The outcome document of the International Conference on Building Local Government Alliance in Incheon, Korea, August 2009, serves as a guidance note for the Campaign. (Please see annexed document for Incheon Declaration).
This Regional Workshop on Urban Risk Reduction will be the first in a series of regional workshops on urban risk reduction aiming at improving the resilience of Arab cities to disasters. There have been different experiences and wide spectrum of activities already in the region with focus on urban risk reduction, seismic risk reduction, flood mitigation, etc… However, there seems to be still a major gap in integrating risk reduction in city planning and in standardized approaches to risk assessment that is coupled with practical tools to reduce risk and vulnerability and make critical infrastructure in a city resilient to disasters.
The main objective of the workshop is to discuss and develop a consolidated and regional assessment tool of urban risks and vulnerabilities. This assessment tool will not only provide indicators to measure risks and vulnerabilities, but also a tool for finding sustainable solutions in a participatory manner. UNISDR and the World Bank have already developed a successful assessment tool for Asia, the "Climate Resilient Cities, A Primer in Reducing Vulnerabilities to Disasters", that has been piloted in five cities in the Arab region. Findings from the pilot study, other existing assessment tools and inputs and experiences from the participants will frame the discussions of a comprehensive assessment tool relevant for the region. The core issues will be how to incorporate climate change adaptation and safe schools and hospitals.
The workshop is expected to contribute to the following:
- Common understandings of existing knowledge, practices and challenges on urban risk reduction, including cities’ resilience to climate change and resilience of critical infrastructure including safe schools and hospitals measures.
- Substantive and consolidated basis for developing a regional risk assessment tool, which will then be applied in a selected number of cities.
- Regional elements for the strategy of the World Disaster Reduction Campaign 2010-2011 are discussed and agreed upon.
- Familiarize with the City Profile and the City Primer
The regional workshop aims at facilitating sharing of knowledge and experiences on urban risk reduction practices, and identifying challenges and gaps, addressing first and foremost officials and experts working on the technical and planning level of urban development in order to establish a substantial platform of knowledge and tools to approach and engage local decision makers at a later stage during the campaign period. Through the workshop, a network will be established of committed stakeholders engaged in urban risk reduction. This network will support regional activities on urban risk reduction and can feed into and support global urban risk reduction activities; to observe the Global Campaign on disaster risk reduction and to establish a Regional Alliance of Local Governments that will connect to the Global Local Alliance Network.
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