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Economic and Social Council discusses impact of natural disasters

Economic and Social Council discusses impact of natural disasters

Kenzo Oshima
The importance of preventing natural disasters and mitigating their impact - especially in poor and vulnerable countries - was high on the agenda of the United Nations Economic and Social Council today as it began discussion of a wide range of environmental issues.

Addressing the current session of the Council in Geneva, Kenzo Oshima, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, pointed out that conscious human action could limit the destruction caused by disasters. "Natural hazards do not in themselves lead to disasters, but instead disasters result from the adverse impact of such hazards on vulnerable ecological, economic and social systems," he observed.

Mr. Oshima emphasized that the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, which was adopted by the General Assembly two years ago, should aim to promote a "culture of prevention."

Speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries, Nasrollah Kazemi-Kamyab of Iran noted that in those States, a single disaster could eliminate years of economic growth and result in tremendous human suffering and loss. The Group of 77 was convinced that natural disasters could be mitigated through a pro-active and concerted approach involving planning, preparedness, prevention, relief and rehabilitation, he said.

The debate on environmental issues followed the Council's adoption on Tuesday of a series of resolutions and decisions on a broad range of subjects. Among them was a resolution adopted by a roll-call vote demanding that Israel comply fully with international agreements, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in order to protect the rights of Palestinian women and their families.

In other texts covering a wide range of topics, the Council deplored discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan, requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to report back to the Commission on the situation in Chechnya, and urged international financial institutions to assist countries most affected by the transit of drugs in order to enable them to combat the illicit drug trade.