Photo: UN Photo/WFP Amjad Jamal.Photo: UN Photo/WFP Amjad Jamal

"One of the deadliest years in more than a generation"

Last updated: 2/11/2011 // That was UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's assessment at an informal debate on disaster risk reduction in New York, where Norway also took part. Last year, a total of 950 disasters caused by natural hazards were recorded. These events claimed more than 296.000 lives, and affected more than 208 million people.

"From the earthquake in Haiti and major tremors in Chile and China to floods in Pakistan and Europe; from wildfires in Russia and the United States to cyclones and tropical storms in Asia, barely a day went by without lives devastated, homes demolished, people displaced and carefully cultivated hopes destroyed. It was one of the deadliest years in more than a generation," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said at the meeting.

In addition to increased exposure of communities to extreme weather events and other natural hazards, the key drivers of disaster risk include poverty, rapid urbanization and the impact of climate change.

Disaster risk reduction

Sweden's UN Ambassador Mårten Grunditz presented a statement on behalf of the five Nordic countries - Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden.

"Risk reduction and early preparedness is still not an integrated part of the everyday work of development institutions such as ministries of planning and finance. Disaster risk reduction needs to be linked directly to development plans and accountability frameworks, with governments assuming responsibility and showing political commitment," ambassador Grunditz said.

Recognizing the importance of reducing vulnerabilities and risks to hazards, especially in developing countries whose development gains can be wiped away with a single disaster, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed in 2005 the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters to promote systematic integration of disaster risk reduction efforts into policies, plans and programmes for sustainable development and poverty reduction.

It is often assumed that development efforts will also lead to the reduction of disaster risk or strengthened adaptation to climate change. Specific studies on disaster risk and the current trend in disaster impacts demonstrate that this may not always be the case. However, short-sighted and unsustainable development practices may contribute to increasing disaster risk. In addition, spending on measures to reduce risk, by national and local governments, remains insufficiently understood, both in scale and effectiveness.  

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