Push for inclusion of resilience to disaster risk in post 2015 development agenda

Pacific Islands News Association

By PACNEWS Editor, Makereta Komai in Geneva

There is a growing push to include resilience to disaster risk in the post 2015 development agenda discussion.

The most frequently used reasons used at the UN Global Platform meeting underway in Geneva are huge costs to infrastructure and government and its impact on the poor and the most vulnerable groups in society.

Vulnerable groups, according to United Nations definition in terms of disaster risk represents women, children and people living with disability.

Speaking to journalists, the UN Deputy Secretary General, Jan Elliason said investing in disaster risk is not the sole responsibility of the central government but all stakeholders in the community.

“All stakeholders, which includes government, civil society and the business community should work together to build resilient infrastructure and communities to prevent natural disasters.

“All the stakeholders must accept shared responsibility, whether it’s the UN, government or organisation. We must all unite horizontally, said Elliason.

“DRR must be reflected in the post-2015 development agenda because it affects the poor and most vulnerable. Member states realize this and push it in the negotiations before the deadline in 2014, said the UN deputy secretary general.

Margareta Wahlström, the special representative of the Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction said one of the themes of the conference is encouraging public-private sector partnership in addressing disaster and climate risks.

Last week, a report released by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, titled, “Creating Shared Value: the Business Case for Disaster Risk Reduction,” found that direct losses from floods, earthquakes and drought have been underestimated by at least 50 per cent. In this century alone, losses from disasters in 56 countries amount to some $2.5 trillion.

The United Nations warned that economic losses from disasters have spun out of control and called on the world’s business community to incorporate disaster risk management to their investment strategies to avoid further losses.

“Governments bear the responsibility for disaster risk reduction. But the level of risk is also related to the where and the how of investment by the private sector, which is responsible for 70 to 85 per cent of worldwide investment in new buildings, industry and critical infrastructure,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the launch of the latest global assessment report (GAR13) by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

So far, informal discussions and conversations during the global platform conference have heard one consistent key message - the need to promote partnership with the private sector, including investment banks and insurance companies.

One of the plenary session highlighted successful public-private sector partnership in building resilient societies.

Mayor of Japan’s northernmost city of Sendai, Emiko Okuyama shared lessons learnt from a project to build a disaster resilient green community in Tagonishi, through public-private sector partnership.

The Tagonishi Eco-town project in Sendai City by group company, Kokusai Kogyo has three main three main concepts, reducing energy consumption, setting the stage for safe, secure and comfortable living, and harmony with nature.

Since the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, and based the lessons learnt from it together with the group’s already strong disaster risk reduction capacity, another development concept was added, disaster resilient urban infrastructure.

Construction has started on the Smart Village and the Tsunami Relocation Public Housing that will have energy management systems and solar photovoltaic generation systems. These two housing areas will be interconnected by an energy visualization system and a fully-operational, community energy supply and management system.

With the reconstruction in Tohoku receiving international attention, there are high expectations on this project as a symbol of the recovery, and it has been selected as a model eco-town under Sendai City’s Earthquake Disaster Reconstruction Plan. Moreover, it has been singled out by the United Nations office for disaster risk reduction (UNISDR), being introduced as an example of disaster resilient urban development in The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2012 and at various other UNISDR-sponsored conferences.

Another model city, San Francisco is pursuing public-private sector partnership to make the city resilient to disasters. Linda Yeung, the deputy city administrator told delegates that US$4 billion of infrastructure and businesses in San Francisco are at risk to natural disaster.

The city, according to Yeung has formed a resilient investment focus group to create five year blue-print to prevent and reduce the impact and costs of disaster related risks.

The two model cities have demonstrated that partnership between public and private sector can work together to build resilient cities.


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