By Denis McClean
Medellín, Colombia - The Mayor of the Argentinian city, Sante Fe, José Corral, returns to his home city tomorrow from the 7th World Urban Forum (WUF7) as a Champion of UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient Campaign.
UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlström acknowledged the Mayor’s political commitment to disaster risk reduction and the city of Sante Fe as a leading example to over 1,700 cities and towns who are now members of the campaign.
Ms. Wahlström said: “Mayor Corral has demonstrated a clear ability to mobilize others to adopt disaster resilient thinking. He has also shown an ability to convey messages to at-risk people – young people, women and girls, the elderly and disabled – in ways proven to reduce those people’s vulnerability to disasters.”
Last Saturday, as the World Urban Forum opened in Medellin, Colombia, the Mayor’s office in Santa Fe was liaising with the National Weather Service to issue flood warnings to the city’s citizens as heavy rain was forecast. The city has a population of 450,000 and 100,000 of its citizens were evacuated during a major flood in 2003 when the river Parana burst its banks.
The Municipal Government reminded people last weekend to clear drains and remove garbage from the streets. Drivers were also requested to circulate only when necessary and to move around with caution especially in areas where the roads are under repair. A hotline was also available for citizens looking for advice.
At the same time the Mayor himself was beginning a series of public engagements at the WUF7 where his risk management experience and advocacy of disaster risk reduction were in high demand. Over 13,000 people registered this week to attend the forum organized by UN-Habitat.
Mayor Corral was among 30 mayors from around the world who took part in a consultation organized by UNISDR to discuss local government’s recommendations for the new global agreement on disaster risk reduction which will be adopted at the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai City, Japan, in March 2015.
Mayor Coral spoke about flood management, the inclusion of vulnerable sections of the population in disaster risk planning and how activities such as municipal gardens promote environmental awareness and involve all sections of the population.
The UNISDR mayors meeting backed the establishment of targets for risk reduction in any successor agreement to the current Hyogo Framework for Action and support greater involvement of local authorities in developing national strategies for disaster risk reduction. They also strongly backed a special focus on safe schools and hospitals and suggested a goal of at least 50% of urban participating in UNISDR’s global Making Cities Resilient Campaign.
Dr. Juan Clos, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, highlighted the issue of uncontrolled urbanization and risk resilience given that in the next 40 years, an additional 3 billion people will be living in cities. He encouraged the Campaign Mayors to bring key messages from WUF7 to the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction next year.
Kabuya Ndoole Kundus, the Mayor of Goma, in the conflict-riven east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, highlighted the threat to the town from a nearby active volcano and the accumulation of methane gas in Lake Kivu. The town also suffered from a lack of employment, public spaces, cemeteries and reliable statistics. It needed assistance with town planning and other resources.
UNISDR champion and Mayor of Lampa, Chile, Graciela Ortuzar, called for more coherence and integration on development beween national government, the private sector and local government.
UNISDR Chief, Ms. Wahlström concluded by stating that the meeting had surfaced many challenging issues around governance including decentralization, access to resources and clarity of roles and responsibilities. “We must never tire of repeating that disaster risk management is a fundamental part of sustainable development.”