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More cities sign up to UN initiative to reduce disaster risk in urban areas

More cities sign up to UN initiative to reduce disaster risk in urban areas

Making Cities Resilient campaign
Four more cities from across the globe today joined a new United Nations initiative designed to improve the capacity of urban areas to protect themselves and their inhabitants from the consequences of natural disasters.

The Swiss city of Davos, Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, Santa Tecla in El Salvador and Baofeng in China became the latest to join the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction’s (UNISDR) campaign dubbed Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready.

The campaign aims to guide the process of putting in place much-needed disaster reduction plans in cities and towns around the world and the signing up of the four cities is an indication that local governments are keen to make efforts to reduce risk in the event of natural disasters, according to UNISDR.

On Sunday, leaders from eight cities – Bonn, Germany; Mexico City, Mexico; Saint-Louis, Senegal; Larreynaga-Malpaisillo, Nicaragua; Karlstad, Sweden, North Little Rock, United States; Durban, South Africa and Albay, Philippines – took part in the official launch of the UNISDR campaign at the First World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change in Bonn.

“We understand that there is an urgent need to come together in a campaign that will help us to better share ways to reduce urban risk, and therefore save lifes,” said Marcelo Ebrard, the mayor of Mexico City and chair of the World's Mayors Council on Climate Change.

The campaign is targeting more than 1,000 local government leaders worldwide to commit to sustainable development practices that increase their cities’ resilience to disasters.

The desired practices include improving urban planning, infrastructure and building safety; reinforcing drainage systems to reduce floods, storm and health threats; installing early warning systems; conducting public preparedness drills; and taking measures to adapt to the increasing impact of climate change.

“Poverty and vulnerability are not a fatality; people are not irreversibly condemned. Our predecessors fought to leave us with a heritage and it is our responsibility to preserve and promote it for the next generation,” said Cheikh Mamadou Abiboulaye Dieye, the mayor of Saint Louis.

Enrique Gomez Toruño, the mayor of Larreynaga-Malpaisillo, said: “It is fundamental that we as local leaders are conscious about the risks. We learned a lot during the recent influenza epidemics and before that from Hurricane Mitch, floods and landslides. We learned we have to invest more time, more capacities to reduce our risks.”

Mayors and local leaders from a number of Asian cities, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Colombo and Kathmandu, are also expected to sign up to the UNISDR campaign at a launch event on 8 June in New Delhi, sponsored by the Indian Ministry of Urban Development, the National Institute of Disaster Management and the SAARC Disaster Management Centre in New Delhi.

“We are very encouraged by the positive response to the new campaign and the number of cities that are already engaged worldwide,” said Margareta Wahlström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction. “A resilient city and its citizens can benefit greatly from the opportunities presented by urban risk reduction actions,” she added.

UNISDR is the overall coordinator of the 2010-2011 World Disaster Reduction Campaign. UN agencies, including the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), the UN World Health Organizations (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are key partners, along with city associations and organizations.