Disaster reduction is everybody’s business – Ban Ki-moon

Children can play crucial communication role

The frequency and severity of the impact of recent floods, drought, earthquakes and typhoons across the Asia-Pacific region and other parts of the world remind the world that more needs to be done to ensure the safety of people's lives and livelihoods. This year’s International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction, on 10 October, is marked by a ceremony at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok. It takes place on the third and final day of a key regional workshop on School Education and Disaster Risk Reduction.

“Disaster reduction is everybody’s business”, says Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary-General, in his message on the International Day. Urging all concerned - governments, civil society, the private sector, international financial institutions and other international organizations - to do their part to raise awareness and reduce vulnerability to future hazards, Mr. Ban stresses that “we all have a moral, social and economic obligation to act now in building resilient communities and nations”.

The International Day aims to raise general awareness of disaster risk reduction. In 2006 the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) Secretariat, together with UN and other partners, launched a two-year global campaign on the theme of ‘Disaster Risk Reduction Begins at School’. The campaign emphasizes the key role that education can play in teaching children about the hazards that they face around their communities. This year’s Asia-Pacific workshop focuses on protecting children, both in and out of the classroom.

Opening the workshop, Raj Kumar, Principal Officer of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), reiterated that, beyond structural measures for disaster reduction, education played a vital role in risk management. In this context, Mr. Kumar noted, schools could serve as the frontline in sharing information and increasing awareness, with children serving as crucial communication links to advocate on natural disaster risk reduction with their families and in their communities.

Such a role for children could not have been imagined a few years ago. UN/ISDR Secretariat Director, Sálvano Briceño, notes that children were - and still are - among the most vulnerable groups in society to disasters. However, success stories from the current campaign have shown that children can play an active part in disaster risk reduction. “Teaching our children today is empowering the next generation to address disaster risk more effectively tomorrow”, says Briceno.