Geneva, 11 May 2011 - Building the resilience of communities and nations to cope with earthquakes, floods and other disasters is the focus of the third biennial Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction, which is underway at the United Nations in Geneva.
Opening the event on 10 May, United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said the destruction wrought by such events can be avoided or mitigated by enhancing resilience through technology and other measures aimed at boosting preparedness.
"We must accelerate our efforts. The world's vulnerability to disaster risks is growing faster than our ability to increase resilience," said Mr. Ban.
"As a result of global climate change, weather-related hazards are on the rise. Nuclear safety and the threat of multiple hazards add an even greater sense of urgency," added the Secretary-General.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is among the contributors to the four-day event, which has attracted 2,000 delegates and, for the first time, incorporates a World Reconstruction Conference focused on disaster recovery and reconstruction. The theme is "Invest today for a safer tomorrow: Increase investment in local action."
The forum will cover lessons learned in preparedness for nuclear accidents, and the rebuilding of critical infrastructure to help governments and communities reduce disaster risks and the loss of life and economic damage resulting from disasters.
UNEP will also lead a session at the World Reconstruction Conference on "Moving Towards a Sustainable Recovery and Reconstruction Framework", featuring speakers from the governments of China and India, civil society, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and aid agencies.
The role of watershed management in increasing the capacity of communities to recover from hazards is the focus of a policy brief prepared by UNEP and the United Nations University (UNU) to be released at a roundtable event on 12 May.
A watershed is usually defined as an area of land that catches precipitation and drains into a larger body of water such as a marsh, stream, river, or lake. Watershed management involves water and land users working together to conserve water ecosystems, by focusing on water quantity, water quality, biodiversity, land use and other issues.
Prepared on behalf of the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR), Managing watersheds for urban resilience provides recommendations on how city and municipal governments can use a watershed management approach for urban risk reduction, particularly in hazard-prone coastal areas and flood plains.
The policy brief outlines how combining engineered infrastructure with ecosystem-based approaches in watershed management, such as reforestation, river or wetland restoration and floodplain regulation, can provide complementary solutions to help protect people and development investments against water-related disasters and climate change.
The recommendations include developing policies and legal frameworks to support the practice of risk-sensitive, sustainable watershed management among governments and institutions and finding new approaches to overcome capacity limitations, such as fostering public-private sector partnerships.
The policy brief is a contribution to the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) Global Campaign, "Making Cities Resilient", and will be presented at a PEDRR Roundtable hosted by UNEP and the UNU featuring speakers from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, France's Loire River Basin Authority, the Ministry of Disaster Management of Sri Lanka and the mayors of Lampa in Chile and Mumbai in India.
The Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction, which runs from 8 - 13 May, was established in 2007 as a biennial forum for information exchange and partnership building across sectors to improve the implementation of disaster risk reduction through better communication and coordination among stakeholders.