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Enhanced resilience to Disasters - 10 Oct 2011
During the preparations for Rio+20, Member States identified a critical emerging challenge: increased frequency and severity of disasters and the need for enhanced resilience.
Disasters have always been with us. If they are now considered a critical, emerging challenge, it is because they occur more often, with greater impact and more devastating consequences.
Without sustainable development, we lack the ingredients to build resilient societies to be able to withstand disasters.
Unfortunately, we have a ways to go. Our resilience capacity is not matching the increased frequency and severity in disasters. Nor do we seem to be coming to grips fully with the environmental impacts of disasters, be they natural or human-made. In particular, I deplore the lack of action in addressing their impact on ecosystems. This fallout may be less visible and less immediate. But the environmental, social and economic consequences are no less significant. We need to do a better job in protecting and managing the natural resource base of our social and economic development.
In recent years, among other disasters and emergencies, we have seen earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, droughts, nuclear accidents, marine pollution and waste dumping, impeding progress towards sustainable development at various levels. Whether caused by nature or humans, the human toll these disasters inflict are devastating and their economic costs run into billions. According to a recent estimate, worldwide economic losses from natural catastrophes and human-made disasters reached some $218 billion in 2010, more than triple the 2009 figure of $68 billion.
In his address to the 66th session of the General Assembly on 21 September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed:
?To prevent runaway damage from natural disasters, we must work for better disaster-risk reduction and preparedness.?
In his address to the Assembly on the same occasion, the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, identified four key areas for the work of the 66th session of the General Assembly, one of which is ?improving disaster prevention and response?.
The United Nations, supported by humanitarian organizations and NGOs, including environmental NGOs, have been doing an admirable job ? in saving lives and in providing emergency relief. Yet in addressing social, economic and environmental consequences of disasters, especially long-term needs for recovery and post-disaster development, the multilateral system is overwhelmed.
Rio+20 offers an opportunity for strengthening governance and institutional frameworks for multilateral action in improving disaster prevention, preparedness and response, and in integrating these actions with long-term development. In addressing disasters and environmental emergencies, we should aim to be equally effective in saving lives, as well as livelihoods. We need to take a sustainable development approach.
I invite readers of this blog to share with the Rio+20 Secretariat your ideas and proposals.