Asia-Pacific countries agree on ways to step up cooperation on disaster risk reduction

On the 1st of July, Asia-Pacific countries ended three days of talks at a United Nations forum in Bankok, agreeing to work more closely together on Disaster risk reduction and make this central to national development strategies. Ministers and senior government officials from 31 countries, who met at the Second Session of the Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction, a subsidiary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), have asked the UN to help promote regional cooperation to minimize the adverse socio-economic and environmental impact of disasters.

Asia-Pacific countries which are most vulnerable to nature’s fury have also agreed to speed up implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015 that calls for making disaster risk reduction a national development priority. Recurring and increasingly severe natural disasters striking the Asia-Pacific region have become a serious obstacle to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and slowed down the pace of economic development in the region. Discussions at the Session highlighted the severe life and livelihood threatening impact of disasters including “Dzud” or snow storms in Mongolia, droughts and floods in Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Nepal , Pakistan, drought and forest fires in the Russian Federation and earthquakes and tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan.

Reliable and quality data are crucial for effective disaster preparedness and Asia-Pacific countries have asked ESCAP to support national capacity building in the collection and analysis of disaster data for better disaster preparedness and vulnerability assessments, and to provide training on disaster assessment methodologies. ESCAP, with the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and other regional partners, have been requested to build regional knowledge through the publication of the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report and the development of the web-based Asia-Pacific gateway for disaster risk reduction and development.

The Session highlighted the need for building resilience especially in least developed countries. The Session also strategized to expand information and communications technologies and space applications in disaster risk reduction to serve the core agenda of ESCAP in inclusive and sustainable development. Additionally, the Pacific Island countries sought assistance with training on space applications for disaster risk management.

ESCAP has also been asked to support institutional capacity for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in economic and social development planning through regional cooperation and continued regional advisory services.