Nowadays, the livelihoods of half the world’s population are exposed to the risk of natural disasters and are regularly devastated by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding, droughts, landslides and cyclones. Statistics show that natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity, and the costs that they are incurring for the affected countries are rising at an exponential rate. 2010 was a record year, during which the costs of natural disasters grew to more than three times that of 2009. So far in 2011, the costs incurred by natural disasters in Japan, New Zealand and Australia have already amounted to USD 300 billion.
The secretariat of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), which is based in Geneva, will host a meeting of top-level representatives of governments, parliaments, international organisations, NGOs, the scientific community, civil society and the private sector to take urgently-needed decisions on how to reduce the economic costs of natural disasters. More than 2,000 participants are expected.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, will open the conference and will urge states to make more resources available for natural disaster prevention. Switzerland will be represented by the State Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Peter Maurer, and a large delegation from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Switzerland has supported the Global Platform since it was founded and is very active at both the bilateral and multilateral levels in the areas of preventing crises, preparing for them and overcoming their consequences. During this session of the Global Platform, Swiss experts will be active in a number of different panel discussions. About 15% of the budget of Swiss Humanitarian Aid is earmarked for projects to reduce the adverse effects of natural disasters.
For the first time, the Global Platform will be carried out together with the World Bank’s “World Reconstruction Conference”, thus bringing the UN and the World Bank system closer together. The most important issues for the discussions at the Global Platform will be the economic consequences of natural disasters and the necessary financing mechanisms, the promotion of alliances between the agenda on climate change and the protection against natural hazards, and the reinforcement of local structures to facilitate improved reconstruction. As the most important decision-making body for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Global Platform will in addition offer an outstanding opportunity for the exchange of experiences between experts from a very wide range of countries. Switzerland will set up a stand at the event to provide information about Swiss projects on protection against natural hazards.
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