One-fifth of the of the world's surface is regularly hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding, drought and storms. There are indications that the number of natural catastrophes is rising. In view of population growth, these disasters pose a large risk to a growing number of people and entail increasing costs. Developing countries are particularly affected. Catastrophic natural events, for instance the earthquake in Haiti at the beginning of 2010, can destroy decades of development work.
Disaster risk reduction is the subject of a special thematic debate at the UN General Assembly in New York on 9 February. Switzerland will be represented in the debate by Toni Frisch, Delegate for Humanitarian Aid and Head of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit. As Chair of the UNEP/OCHA Advisory Group on Environmental Emergencies, Ambassador Frisch will also be participating in a round-table discussion on how to take better account of disaster risks in development and investment activities. A second round table will be dealing with urban planning measures.
Disaster risk reduction has traditionally been a core focus of Switzerland's humanitarian aid activities. For three decades, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has been helping other countries to achieve a higher level of security by implementing measures to prevent natural disasters and by enhancing preparedness for when they strike. Last year, the effectiveness of Switzerland's commitment in this area in a number of pilot countries was reviewed, and the results were published in a report (see link). This May, a further session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction will be held in Geneva.
The special thematic debate on disaster risk reduction is the first debate on a specific theme initiated by the current President of the General Assembly.
Johann Aeschlimann, Swiss Mission UN New York, +1 917 757 3389
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