By Brigitte Leoni
Geneva - Valentina comes from Nancy and Agathe from Strasbourg. They are completing their final year at high school and are among 150 students who are attending a two-day UN Geneva Seminar series on disaster risk reduction that started today.
“We are very keen to learn more about these issues as we do not really discuss them at school. This is a great opportunity for us to become more familiar with the broader UN agenda, and understand it from a different perspective,” said Agathe.
The event “Reducing Disaster Risks to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” jointly organized for the first time by the UN Office for Disaster Risk reduction and the Department of Public Information (DPI) of the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG) could not have been “more timely”, said Kirsi Madi, Director of UNISDR in her opening remarks.
“This year has been a record year; so many devastating disasters all over the world have shown that the decisions we make can increase or decrease the impact of disasters,“ she said. The two-day event brings experts in disaster risk reduction and representatives from countries recently hit by disasters including the Sierra Leone ambassador to the UN, Ms Yvette Stevens. As many as 1,000 people are reported to have died in the mudslide which struck a district of the capital, Freetown.
The event will also mark the International Day for Disaster Reduction, which will be celebrated tomorrow. This year, the focus of the Day is on substantially reducing the number of people affected by disasters globally by 2030.
“Understanding disaster risk is the main objective of the two days and this is key to the right decisions that will protect more people and their assets in the future. Your generation is a generation that feels the pressure to fix the planet and the world will need your actions to make the world safer and more resilient”, said Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of Conference Management of UNOG.
According to Ms. Momal-Vanian, “Disaster risk reduction is a major theme on the UN agenda. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be achieved without compliance with the seven targets of the Sendai Framework which aim to reduce disaster losses by 2030. The link with climate change is indisputable and disaster risk reduction is a main tool to address more frequent and severe weather related hazards.”
Ms. Momal-Vanian initiated the UN Geneva Mini-Series initiative with Ms. Catherine Fegli of UN’s DPI four years ago.