Global perspective Human stories

Advance planning, not just relief, needed to confront disasters, Ban says

Advance planning, not just relief, needed to confront disasters, Ban says

Foresight and advanced planning, not just emergency relief, are necessary to slash the tragic toll of extreme natural disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

“Humanity is not the helpless victim of nature. Our capacity to cope with natural disasters is much greater than we realize,” Mr. Ban said at the release of a report on lessons learned during the response to the giant waves of December 2004, which killed more than 200,000 people and left up to 5 million in a dozen countries in need of basic services.

Mr. Ban was accompanied at today’s event by his Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, former United States President Bill Clinton, and heard delegations from India, Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand present their country’s experiences during and after the tragedy.

“We cannot prevent such events, but we can diminish their potential for disaster,” the Secretary-General said in his presentation, noting that the new report builds on the Hyogo Framework for action to reduce disaster risk, adopted by governments three weeks after the tsunami.

Experience has shown that good building design, proper land-use planning, public education, community preparedness and effective early warning systems can reduce the impact of severe weather events, he said.

He noted that many countries have shown the way by investing in flood control measures, hurricane-proof buildings and coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and coral reefs.

Above all, he said, committed leadership, strategic coordination and inclusive efforts are crucial. “We have learned the importance of building local capacity, focusing on the needs of women and the poorest, community participation and accountability and transparency.”

He said that much work had already been done to advance national coordination of disaster risk reduction. In that light, he noted that India has established a National Disaster Management Authority and Indonesia has created a Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Board.

In Maldives the government set up a National Disaster Management Centre, while in Sri Lanka, the tsunami was a catalyst for the creation of the Ministry of National Disaster Management and Human Rights. In addition, Thailand has enacted a Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act and a high-level command for disaster response.

The UN matched those efforts by establishing a “One UN” office for Recovery Coordination in Aceh and Nias, noted Mr. Ban. “Coordination is not a luxury. It is an absolute necessity.”