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Cut disaster deaths in half, Ban challenges officials at global forum

Cut disaster deaths in half, Ban challenges officials at global forum

Loss of life can be minimized with investment in disaster prevention measures (file photo)
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today challenged representatives from over 150 governments to halve the number of lives lost due to disasters by 2015.

“I challenge you to set a target,” Mr. Ban said in a video message to some 1,500 delegates attending a disaster risk reduction conference in Geneva.

In addition to reducing the loss of life from disasters by half by 2015, the Secretary-General also challenged those gathered to work to significantly reduce economic losses resulting from earthquakes, floods, storms, landslides and other destructive events.

Also speaking at the opening of the three-day UN-backed Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction was Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, who said “the time is long overdue to move disaster risk reduction to the centre of the development agenda.”

According to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), one of the meeting’s sponsors, some 236,000 people lost their lives last year in 300 disasters, while damages exceeded $180 billion.

“Risks are growing, especially in poor countries,” noted the Secretary-General. “In many parts of the world, we are losing ground. Moreover, it is clear that climate change is making things worse.”

He said the UN climate change conference, set for Copenhagen in December, must also look at steps to reduce disasters. Coupling a successful Copenhagen meeting with the already completed Hyogo Framework for Action, the 10-year programme adopted in 2005 which calls for investing heavily in disaster preparedness, “We can achieve a triple win – against poverty, against disasters and against climate change.”

Mr. Ban also spoke about the Copenhagen conference in a video message to today’s high-level dialogue in Manila on the issue of climate change in the Asia-Pacific region. He noted that the December meeting must address Asia’s shrinking glaciers that threaten water supplies and food security for hundreds of millions of people, and rising sea levels that could inundate many Asian islands and cities.

“As we look forward to Copenhagen, I have a simple message for the countries of Asia and the Pacific,” he said. “You must be part of the long-term solution.

“You must help us seal a deal that addresses mitigation, adaptation, financing and governance,” he said, “a deal that is ambitious, comprehensive and fair.”