ESCAP partners with China to help Asia and the Pacific to reduce disaster risk

The regional arm of the United Nations in Asia and the Pacific is teaming up with China to create a disaster risk reduction framework that could help save lives and reduce the damage caused by disasters in the future.

The cooperative framework was outlined today by UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Noeleen Heyzer, during her visit to the earthquake ravaged Sichuan province of China. The earthquake, which struck in May, has left over 90,000 dead or missing.

“The Asia-Pacific region shares a disproportionate burden of the global loss of life from disasters,” Dr. Heyzer said, “Eighty per cent of casualties from major disasters in the world over the last seven years have occurred in Asia-Pacific and six of the 10 most affected countries, in terms of number of victims, are from this region.”

Dr. Heyzer visited the town of Yingsiu – the epic-centre of the earthquake – about 100 kilometres northwest of Chengdu, the provincial capital, as well settlements and schools in the area. She expressed her admiration of the people for their recovery effort and the rapidness of the Chinese government’s response to the disaster.

“The smooth coordination with which the relief and rescue effort was undertaken despite the sheer enormity of the task is truly admirable,” Dr. Heyzer said.

The proposed partnership between ESCAP and the Chinese government aims to help develop and promote regional cooperation in disaster risk reduction.

“We see the People’s Republic of China as a leading contributor as well as a benefactor of a process where ESCAP and China will work together towards promoting regional cooperation in disaster risk reduction to make the entire Asia-Pacific more resilient to disasters,” Dr. Heyzer said.

The proposed framework for cooperation will concentrate on three main areas: disaster risk reduction and preparedness; impact assessment, especially on socio-economic development; and enhancing existing South-South cooperation mechanisms for sharing experiences in disaster management in the region.

The first area: disaster risk reduction and preparedness, includes creating regional access to information about disaster risk reduction as well as access to policy and budget mechanisms to ensure adequate support and early warning systems. An example of this type of work is the ESCAP Tsunami Regional Trust Fund, which supports early warning of tsunamis and related hazards in the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia.

The second area: socio-economic impact assessment of disasters, includes developing and sharing model policies and legislation aimed at reducing the social and economic impact of disasters.

The third area: enhancing regional South-South cooperation mechanisms for sharing experiences in disaster management, includes using and enhancing the mechanisms already in place with South-South cooperation for analysis and sharing of good practices as well as identifying and assessing disaster risk reduction activities in the region.

Based on these initial proposals, ESCAP and China plan to work further in the coming months towards creating a disaster risk reduction programme that could benefit the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.

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