Special High Level U.N. thematic session on water and disasters
Water is life. But water is also a threat to life. During the past decade, water-related disasters have not only struck more frequently but have also been more severe, hampering sustainable development by causing political, social, and economic shocks in many countries.
Disaster risk levels are driven by factors such as climate variability, poverty, poor land-use planning and management, as well as ecosystem degradation, and are increasing as more people and assets locate in areas of high risk.
Integrated approaches to water resource management are critical for building the social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainable development, as highlighted by the Rio +20 conference last year.
In view of this the U.N. Secretary-General H.E. Mr Ban Ki Moon convened a Special High level Session on Water and Disasters 6 March to raise awareness, share experiences and good practices and discuss ways forward towards global actions on water and disasters. His Imperrial Highness The Crown Prince of Japan (hon prtesident of UNSGAB) and his Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Orange of the Netherlands (Chair of UNSGAB) presented keynote addresses to the assembled audience of diplomats and Officials from many UN Countries and organizations. Remarks were also made by The president of the General assembly Mr Vuk Jeremic. The Mornings panel was Co-Chaired with Dr Hang Seung-Soo Founding chair of HLEP/UNSGAB.
Michel Jarraud, WMO Secretary-General and chair of UN-Water, and Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, co-chaired part of the afternoons discussions of a panel of experts from around the world. Earlier on the 5th March Mr Jarraud also Chaired a side event of experts on Water to discuss various case studies and look at common solutions to problems.
There is undisputable evidence today of our increasing vulnerability to weather and water-related hazards, exacerbated by climate change. Resulting economic losses have increased nearly 50-fold since the mid-1950s. At the same time, however, it has been possible to dramatically decrease loss of life over the same period by a factor of about 10, in particular as a consequence of the development of early warning systems in a number of high-risk countries, as well as of decisive advances in hazard forecasting and monitoring, and of more effective and coordinated emergency preparedness and planning.
Mr Jarraud pointed out that more can be done to increase the resilience of communities to the threat of floods by, for example, improving the balance between structural and non-structural measures and increasing public awareness programs.
WMO played a leading role in the international efforts to promote a new disaster risk reduction paradigm in the context of the Hyogo Framework for Action. This framework shifted the focus from emergency response toward preparedness and prevention and called for much larger crosscutting collaboration across UN Agencies, countries and communities.