UN-backed conference to explore gender angle of disaster risk reduction

17 April 2009

Men and women need to work together as equal partners to protect their communities against disasters, particularly as climate change makes storms, floods, and cyclones more frequent and severe, according to the United Nations unit on risk reduction.

Unfortunately, however, the sexes are now affected quite differently, with women more frequently victims, according to the announcement of a conference on the topic by the UN International Strategy for Risk Reduction (ISDR).

ISDR says that 90 per cent of the people killed in the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh were women and African-American women were among the worst-affected when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.

“Women do not have to be the main victims of disasters they can be an incredible asset and make a real difference in saving lives if they can play a bigger role in preventing and managing disasters” says Margareta Wahlström, Assistant Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The International Conference on Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction, opening on Monday in Beijing, China, will explore how women and men can participate equally in driving early warning systems, risk assessments, preparedness exercises and national and local plans to implement disaster risk reduction policies.

More than 200 participants, among them ministers and parliamentarians from 50 countries, are expected to attend the three-day conference.

It is expected to reach consensus on a set of nine achievable actions that will be part of the “Beijing Declaration for Action” to be implemented by 2015.

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