Cooperation among Asia-Pacific nations critical to reduce disaster risk – UN

Cooperation among Asia-Pacific nations critical to reduce disaster risk – UN

Collaboration between Governments in Asia and the Pacific is key to saving lives from natural disasters in the world’s most prone region, a senior United Nations official stressed today at the first session of a new committee on disaster risk reduction.

The vulnerable Asia-Pacific region accounts for 42 per cent of the world’s natural disasters, and a disproportionate 65 per cent of its victims.

In 2008 alone, almost a quarter of a million people died as a result of natural disasters in the region, representing 97 per cent of fatalities worldwide.

“Natural disasters pose a significant challenge to development in our region,” said UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer, in her opening address to the three-day meeting.

“A person living in our region is four times more likely to be affected by natural disasters than someone living in Africa and 25 times more likely then someone living in Europe or North America,” Ms. Heyzer told participants of the Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction (CDRR), which was formed by ESCAP.

At a high-level round table, delegates exchanged knowledge and experience with disaster risk reduction, and discussed the implications of integrating it into economic and social development planning and policy.

The group concluded that as complex information regarding danger, vulnerability and resources is spread throughout the region and often out of reach of decision-makers, cooperation is critical to effectively reduce the loss of lives and the social, economic and environmental impact of disasters.

Ms. Heyzer said that ESCAP would establish a mechanism for sharing information among disaster risk management authorities in the region, as well as produce the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report, which brings together information from Member States, provides socio-economic analysis of disaster risk reduction trends, identifies good practices, evaluates the state of reduction efforts in the region and highlights future priorities and trends.

Participants at the round table included ministers and senior officials responsible for disaster management from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, Myanmar, Pakistan, Republic of Korea and Thailand.