By Berta Acero
Riyadh - The Secretary General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) has called for strong regional commitment towards development of a disaster risk reduction strategy to strengthen the resilience of nations and individuals to natural hazards.
Speaking at a regional workshop on disaster risk reduction entitled Reducing and managing disaster risk and implementing the Hyogo For Action (HFA) which was hosted by the GCC from 13-16 January in Riyadh in collaboration with UNISDR, Secretary-General Abdul-Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani, emphasized the need for a regional culture of safety.
The HFA is a 10-year plan to detail the work required from all different sectors and actors to reduce disaster losses by 2015. It was agreed on in 2005 with the many partners needed to reduce disaster risk - governments, international agencies, disaster experts and many others - bringing them into a common system of coordination.
Al Zayani outlined a strategy for disaster risk reduction in the Gulf region with five strategic targets: protecting the security and stability of GCC countries; maintaining sustainable economic growth; achieving comprehensive human development; increasing capacity to deal with crises and disasters; and enhancing regional and international cooperation. He reaffirmed his commitment to such a strategy and expressed his willingness to provide "security, stability and public safety to GCC countries and their citizens".
Head of UNISDR's Regional Office for Arab States, Amjad Abbashar, stressed that "the unwavering commitment to disaster risk reduction voiced by the GCC Secretary General will lead to a strengthened systematic engagement of UNISDR with the GCC, its Disaster Management Centre, and its member states".
Abbashar said UNISDR is keen and ready to help the GCC improve their reporting on the Hyogo Framework for Action and to engage Gulf states and regional partners in the ongoing consultations for new framework in 2015.
Abdel Aziz Hamza, Director of the GCC Disaster Management Center, underlined his commitment to broaden disaster risk reduction efforts in the region by promoting the participation of Gulf States. He emphasized the added value of raising awareness in the Gulf region, by mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in schools.
"The GCC Disaster Management Center will work towards strengthening Gulf Capacities in DRR", Hamza said adding that it would be "important to promote the use and transfer of advanced technologies and knowledge to address disaster risk reduction and emergencies".
Fifty participants from the six member states of the Gulf region - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - participated in the workshop.
The workshop benefited from contributions of experts from the Italian Government Civil Protection Authority, International Center for Environmental Monitoring, UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD) and the Jordanian Government Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority.
This workshop is the first training and engagement by this sub region with political support from top international governmental organizations working with the GCC. It is a vital step towards the development of a road map and strategy for the Gulf countries.
The GCC countries are most vulnerable to climate change which particularly affects sea Level rise. Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait are among the most effected in the world by phenomena. Sand storms, storm surges, flash floods and cyclones are other frequent hazards.
According to recent news reports this week the United Arab Emirates recorded experienced temperatures of 1ºc in mountain areas compared to 36ºc in the same areas in January 1991.