Disaster risk reduction through community safety and resilience

Published: 2 November 2010

Statement by Ms Elyse Mosquini of the IFRC Delegation to the United Nations, at the Second Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York

Madam Chair,

It is my pleasure on behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to address the Second Committee on sub-item C., International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

As I speak, thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are responding to recent disasters – six of which are occurring in South East Asia alone, while others of major humanitarian magnitude are impacting communities in the Caribbean and West and Central Africa. Globally, IFRC now has 52 active appeals representing a need of over 1.8 billion US dollars. These facts substantiate the need to invest in disaster risk reduction. From the humanitarian perspective, risk reduction saves not only money, but more importantly, lives and livelihoods.

IFRC takes a holistic approach to disaster risk reduction, aiming to strengthen both community safety and resilience. When provided with support to prioritize and manage their own risks, a community’s capacity to absorb shocks, whether related to food security, livelihoods, health, infrastructure or other sectors, is increased. Through this long-term approach, development gains are secured and further economic growth is enabled. IFRC is also increasingly factoring the effects of climate change into our work, recognizing that the more resilient a community is, the better able it is to adapt to changing weather patterns and increased uncertainty.

Madam Chair,

I offer an example from the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, a country highly vulnerable to natural hazards, including flooding and mudflows, drought and fires, as well as harsh winters. For the past five years, the National Red Cross Society – in its capacity as auxiliary to the government in disaster response – has been implementing a disaster management programme across 100 communities in the most flood-prone provinces in the country.

Working with community disaster management committees established under the programme, the National Society is raising awareness of disaster risks and bringing preparedness skills to the community. They are combining structural mitigation measures, such as building river embankments, with softer measures, such as early warning, contingency planning and risk mapping. Creative initiatives are also underway: for example, ten of these communities, with material support from the National Society, built community greenhouses – from which 50 per cent of the vegetables produced are distributed to vulnerable households, and the remainder sold at local markets to raise income for future disaster preparedness activities.

Madam Chair,

As underscored in the UN Secretary-General’s recent report on the Implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, disaster risk is an increasing problem in urban areas where risk, population and economic assets are concentrated. For the first time in history, more people now live in an urban environment than a rural one; and in the last decade alone, the urban population in developing countries has risen by 77 per cent. Given the already large deficit in infrastructure and services in these developing population centres, the urban risk divide is expected to grow wider as climate change brings on ever more severe disaster impacts in some of the world’s most vulnerable locations.

Recognising this concerning trend and supporting the ISDR’s safer city campaign, IFRC chose urban risk as the theme for our latest annual World Disasters Report. The report explores urban risk in its different facets and presents a number of recommendations to reduce this risk and build resilience. One of the report’s key findings is the importance of good urban governance. This is essential to ensure that people are empowered, involved and consulted in the development of their urban environment - and not marginalized and left exposed to disasters, climate change, violence and ill health.

IFRC has endorsed the ISDR campaign Making Cities Resilient: My city is getting ready. In direct support of the campaign, IFRC is embarking on a 12 month research programme to clarify its policy direction and approaches regarding urbanization.

Madam Chair,

As an active member of the ISDR, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is committed to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA). In coordination with the ISDR, and as a direct contribution to the mid term review of the HFA, IFRC conducted its own revision (with participation of National Societies and our Secretariat structure) and submitted a report to the ISDR.

The UN Secretary-General’s report identifies as a major challenge in the implementation of the HFA, reaching vulnerable communities. With our global network of national societies and community-based volunteers, the Red Cross Red Crescent is committed to meeting this challenge. Our goal over the remaining five years of the HFA is to accelerate progress, particularly in the priority area of “reducing underlying risk” so that collectively we can continue saving lives.

Thank you.