International Day for Disaster Reduction

October 13, 2010

Today, we join the world in marking the International Day for Disaster Reduction, celebrating the small victories that we have so far won yet recognizing the persistent challenges that remain—foremost of which is the challenge to build more sustainable and disaster-resilient towns and cities.
In many parts of the globe, disasters of unprecedented proportions made it into the headlines. The earthquake in Pakistan, the flooding in Bangladesh, Myanmar, China and tropical storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng in the Philippines have one thing in common – they have been labeled as the deadliest or worst ever disasters that these countries have faced.
What is more disturbing is the even worse impact of disaster risks in more urbanized societies, where higher concentrations of national population and economic power are located.
Who could forget how Ondoy jolted a totally unprepared Metro Manila?
Mr. President,
The central campaign of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) for this year, “Making Cities Resilient,” enjoins cities and local governments to get ready, reduce the risks and become resilient to disasters.
We take pride in the fact that United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has cited the Province of Albay as an ideal model of a resilient and safe community towards sustainable development. Albay is among the first local governments in the globe to commit to a ten-point checklist identified by the UN ISDR to scale up investments in urban planning, infrastructure and building safety; protect ecosystems to mitigate floods; and install early warning systems, among other measures.
The challenge to us, decision and policy-makers, is to help make cities resilient to hazards because losses due to disasters are always greatly felt in the local level, but sometimes invisible from a global perspective. Bringing it down to the city or town level also allows active participation from everybody—the local government, national government, civil society, donors, academe and stakeholders. After all, reducing disaster risks is everybody’s business.
The strong engagement of local governments in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation is also the guarantee that projects to make our communities disaster resilient get off the ground, are pursued aggressively, and succeed.
Mr. President,
Elected leaders—national or local— have a moral obligation to the people. We must lead responsibly and wisely. We must reduce disaster risks in our midst. We must prepare our people to adapt to a changing climate.
Are our cities and towns ready for the worst that climate change could bring? This question is inevitably asked of ourselves and of every local leader. And the people that chose us to lead them deserve nothing less than our definitive response and effective intervention.