May 26, 2011

United Nations braces for increased disaster risks

In a new report presented during a recent four-day United Nations conference on disaster risk reduction, the risk of economic loss to disaster was found to be increasing faster than the rate of economic growth. In developed countries, the risk of loss due to floods had increased by 160% in the past three decades, while the incidence of tropical cyclone-related disasters tripled over the past four decades, spanning even more countries.

The 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction also emphasized that climate change was linked to the intensifying pattern of destructive extreme weather events, which globally now cost over US$1.5 trillion.

During the conference in Geneva, Switzerland, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made reference to the multiple recent tragedies that struck Japan through a quake, tsunami, and nuclear accident as he warned that no country is immune from either natural or human-caused disasters.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (M): Disasters caused by natural hazards are taking a heavy toll on communities everywhere, in countries rich and poor. They are outpacing our ability to respond.

Tricia Holly-Davis – Director of Sustainability, Willis Group (F): The 10-year average of economic losses since 2000 totaled US$110 billion, and insured losses of US$35 billion. That figure has already doubled so far this year. With Japan and now what we’re seeing in the States, it will have well more than doubled.

VOICE: Conference delegates, including private sector leaders, discussed the need to invest more in minimizing disaster impacts, especially through early warning preparedness and prevention measures.

Margareta Wahlstrom – Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction (F): Honestly, there are no natural disasters. All disasters are man-made, because of the way we create our society, the way we build cities, and the way of hazards that are known.

VOICE: With statistics showing that about half of all people killed or affected by catastrophes being children, child activists also attended the meeting to urge governments to take action for their safety.

Tricia – Child activist (F): We, the children, are most vulnerable. If disasters like tropical cyclones, flash floods, tidal waves, drought, volcanic eruption, and many more strike, then classes have to be suspended, starving of children, some of them are left homeless and even death of these child victims.

VOICE: Our appreciation, United Nations and all concerned participants of this global conference for disaster risk reduction. May our proper concerted efforts address the root of all disasters to ensure ours and future generations can live in peace and protection.

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