First Asia-Pacific Disaster Report Launched by ESCAP and ISDR in Icheon, Republic of Korea

People in the Asia-Pacific region are four times more likely to be affected by natural disasters than those in Africa and 25 times more likely than those in Europe or North America, says a UN report released here today at the Fourth Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR).

The first of its kind, the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2010 report (available at http://www.unescap.org/publications/detail.asp?id=1406) was launched at the AMC DRR by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR).

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea H.E. Kim Hwang-sik inaugurated the conference and a video message from the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was screened at the opening ceremony.

The report notes that while the region generated one quarter of the world’s GDP, it accounted for a staggering 85 per cent of deaths and 38 per cent of global economic losses due to natural disasters over the last three decades.

As a region highly prone to natural disasters with disproportionate impacts on human development, and facing new threats from climate change, the Asia-Pacific region has surprisingly lacked a comprehensive regional assessment of disasters. Accordingly, ESCAP and ISDR collaborated to produce the Asia and Pacific Disaster Report 2010.

The report considers the socio-economic impact of disasters, and suggests ways of reducing vulnerability to disasters to protect hard-won development gains. It emphasizes that disaster losses are linked to and exacerbated by poverty, and that the vulnerability of the poor stems from multifaceted socio-economic and environmental imbalances.

The study emphasizes that future disaster risk reduction strategies be considered within broader development frameworks and multisectoral budgetary processes addressing economic inequities, as well as social and environmental imbalances resulting from development strategies.

Dr Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, in a joint statement with Margareta Wahlström, UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, said: “Unless these imbalances are addressed, people who are constantly exposed to disaster risk are more likely to remain poor and more vulnerable to disasters, perpetuating a vicious cycle from which it is extremely difficult to break free.” “Thus the question for us is not “how to?”, but rather “how to do better?” – because people matter!” the statement added. At the AMCDRR, ESCAP will also organize a technical session on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

The AMCDRR follows a one-day pre-conference event on 24 October, "Introduction of Innovative Tools for Typhoon Committee Members to Reduce Typhoon-Related Disasters” jointly organized by ESCAP, the National Institute for Disaster Prevention of the Republic of Korea, the World Meteorological Organization, and the Typhoon Committee Secretariat.

The Fourth AMCDRR is organized by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) of the Government of the Republic of Korea in partnership with UNISDR, the Australian Government Overseas Aid Program (AusAID), the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the Incheon Metropolitan City.