By Musa Ecweru,
I recently attended a high-level dialogue in Geneva, Switzerland, at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction where many Government ministers, business executives and senior experts attended to reflect on the future of disaster risk and a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction.
With the recent devastating floods and mudslides in areas such as Kasese and Bududa, attracting many questions about Uganda’s preparedness and capacity to effectively handle emergency situations, this was a timely meeting. This is even made worse by the terrorism threats.
The dialogue called for urgent action to address the existing and growing risks, faced by communities and nations globally. The need to support the most vulnerable, such as children, women and people with disabilities, to build their resilience to disasters was emphasised.
The disaster and other regional platforms were commended for their highly inclusive participation and as key mechanisms in the consultations for the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction. Emphasised raised on the central role of women in protecting vulnerable groups as well as in building community resilience.
The increased efforts of countries to reduce disaster risk, following the adoption of the Hyogo Framework for Action was commended. Whereas some results have been achieved, like the reduction of mortality from weather-related disasters in particular, risk continues to increase due to the existing public and private investment policies and development practices.
Poor land use planning and regulation, the lack of awareness, the increase in weather-related hazards and the impacts of climate change are key elements which contribute to this trend. Critical infrastructure is often built in vulnerable areas where, for example, natural drainage of flood waters is blocked. There are an unacceptably high number of schools and hospitals collapsing, reflecting an urgent need to retrofit and design new ones to be safe. The safety of children must be a priority in accordance with their views as captured in the consultations in the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction.
Participants highlighted the 'no regrets' nature of investments in disaster risk reduction. They also recognised hat private investments are heavily exposed to, and affected by, disasters in the form of business and supply chain disruptions, commodity price fluctuations, and asset damages. Fostering public-private partnerships is seen as critical to managing future risk.
Participants recognised that there is an urgent need to address the drivers of risk as this is instrumental to social, economic and environmental sustainability and well-being of people and this should be a core part of the post-2015 development agenda, future sustainable development goals, and the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change. The importance of science and the data for evidence-based decision-making was emphasized, as was the need for well-functioning and integrated early warning systems.
The dialogue proposed the following actions for all stakeholders to rally behind:
. Advocate for disaster risk reduction and the building of resilience to be a central part of the future we want in a sustainable development; the post-2015 development agenda; and the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change. All of which are to be supported by a post-201 5 framework for disaster risk reduction.
. Call on countries to develop nationally agreed standards for hazard risk assessments especially of critical Infrastructure (including schools, health centres, electricity and water supply systems, nodal ITC data centers, road and transport systems).
. Start a global safe schools and safe health structures campaign in disaster-prone areas with voluntary funding commitments to be announced at the World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction for 2015.
. Call on the private sector to integrate disaster risk considerations in risk management practices.
. Stimulate collaboration among the public and private sectors at local and national levels in risk management.
The writer is the Minister of State For Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees