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Natural disasters – from global commitments to local action  

During the meeting of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction held in Cancún, Mexico on 22-26 May, Adam Banaszak, speaking on behalf of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), stressed that disaster resilience is one of the central pillars of sustainable development and emphasised that disaster resilience must be taken into account in all public investment strategies. For every euro we spend on disaster risk reduction, he said, we save at least four euros that would otherwise be spent on reconstruction.

Adam Banaszak (PL/ECR) , vice-president of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Assembly, was representing European local and regional government at the conference, as part of the official EU delegation. He is the author of the CoR's opinion on the Action Plan on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 . He underlined that achieving the key objective of the Action Plan of increasing the number of countries with national and local risk-management plans by 2020, requires the different tiers of government in different countries to work together.

“The frequency and intensity of disasters are increasing and disasters do not respect borders. Therefore, we have to work together to ensure that we are collectively building resilient communities. In Europe we already have such mechanisms in place. However, they mainly focus on disaster response, which is why we are now trying to embed the principle of disaster resilience into our development policy. Local and regional government have a key role to play in achieving this. We are the first line of response in crisis situations and have at our disposal detailed knowledge of the local area and community. We have to take the lead and share our best-practices with each other" said Mr Banaszak.

At the same time as the Global Platform was being held in Cancún, EU local and regional leaders from the CoR were on a fact-finding mission to regions of Italy hit by the 2009 and 2016 earthquakes, in order to better understand how to make EU support more effective. President Markku Markkula remarked: "In the EU alone natural disasters have taken more than 80,000 lives and €95 billion over the last decade. If we take the Italian response to the tragic earthquakes, it shows local and regional governments on the frontline know best how to prepare and cope. Our Action Plan with the UNISDR reflects just this: only by listening bottom up, through cooperation and sharing best practice from the ground can we minimise the impact. In Europe, we now need more flexible, faster emergency EU funds to respond to future catastrophes."

Mr Banaszak said: "In Kujawsko-Pomorskie, we have suffered from wild fire. In 1992, we suffered four disastrous forest fires, each of which affected several thousand hectares and led to deaths and injuries. We learnt from this experience, and we have successfully avoided similar levels of damages. We built community-based contingency plans, and this grass-root approach has been crucial to our success."

The CoR calls in its opinion for the principle of disaster resilience to be mainstreamed into EU policies and funds. All EU projects for the construction of new infrastructure should be resilient to threats and this principle should be a condition of access to funding. Currently, approximately one-third of the EUs budget is spent on territorial and cohesive development, on top of which the EU also has a strategic investment fund. These, however, currently do not require disaster resilience to be taken into account in the construction of new infrastructure. Changing this would help save lives and minimise the economic damage that future disasters can cause. The opinion also underlines that the importance of the private sector being aware of risks, and the positive role that the private sector can play, through sharing disaster data and through disaster insurance schemes.

The opinion is a reflection on the main elements of the UN's action plan from the point of view of local and regional authorities: the collecting and sharing data, the development of strategies for risk awareness, cooperation with the private sector, cross-border cooperation, climate-change adaptation, the promote of risk-informed investments in all EU financial instruments, support for early-warning systems, and reconstruction after disaster strikes.

Notes for editors:

1/ The European Committee of the Regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives from all 28 Member States. Created in 1994, its mission is to involve regional and local authorities in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. Its 350 members and 350 alternates either hold an electoral mandate or are politically accountable to an elected assembly in their home regions and cities. Click here for more details on your national delegation.

2/ The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 is a non-binding agreement struck in Sendai, Japan, on 18 March 2015. Its aim is to reduce the number of disasters, by making cities more resilient.

3/The Sendai Framework was preceded by the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015. The Action Plan, which was signed on International Day for Disaster Reduction, between the CoR and the UNISDR, seeks to translate the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 – a voluntary international approach to disaster-management policy and operations – into ideas for local and regional governments. The Action Plan upgrades a partnership between the CoR and the UNISDR that dates back to 2012.

4/ The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (Global Platform), as recognised by the UN General Assembly, is the main forum at the global level for strategic advice, coordination, partnership development and the review of progress in the implementation of international instruments on disaster risk reduction. It was established in 2006 and is now the world's foremost gathering of stakeholders committed to reducing disaster risk and building the resilience of communities and nations. Global Platform will be held this year between 22 and 26 May in Cancun, Mexico.

5/ Other documents:

Statement: Dealing with disasters: new global strategy must empower local and regional authorities

CoR opinion: 'Post 2015 Hyogo Framework for Action'

CoR opinion: Action Plan on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 - A disaster risk-informed approach for all EU policies

Study: Implementation of the Sendai Framework at the EU level


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