With countries’ vulnerability to natural disasters rising as their development levels fall, Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández today called for the creation of a new global coalition under United Nations auspices of nations at risk of catastrophe to share experiences and knowledge.
This year alone, he told General Assembly on the first day of its annual high-level segment, there have been 47 floods and landslides; 12 hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons; eight serious droughts followed by fires; seven earthquakes; and volcanic eruptions.
“Additionally, we have to include the numerous cold waves, floods, and storms that have occurred as well as the epidemics that took place as a result, particularly cholera in Africa and dengue in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Dr. Fernández proposed the establishment of a World Alliance of Countries at Risk which would be “a great contribution towards designing and implementing policies to help save lives and minimize material damages.”
Many natural disasters, he pointed out, are caused by climate change, underscoring the need to set guidelines to regulate carbon emissions and protect the planet’s biodiversity.
“There is much work to be done around the world in order to define and implement policies and practices that allow us to prevent the negative impact of natural disasters,” the Dominican leader stressed.
It is vital, he said, to couple risk management with development and land-use planning. Early warning systems must be implemented in coastal areas, at-risk cities, schools and hospitals, while critical infrastructure must urgently be updated to resist future catastrophes and minimize the loss of human life.
Also calling for a new mechanism to stave off the worst effects of natural disasters at the Assembly debate today was Turkish President Abdullah Gül.
“This would also help maintain international peace and security by mitigating the threats stemming from weak governance, collapse of public order and domestic or inter-State conflicts over diminishing natural resources,” he noted.
Dedicating just a small fraction of nations’ defence expenditures to financing this new mechanism could more cost-effectively achieve results in maintaining global peace and stability, he said.
“Moreover,” the Turkish leader said, “If we could pool some of our defence equipment that lost its effective utilization in military terms but are still relevant disaster relief operations, we would swiftly build the said rapid reaction capability.