Meet Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction
This briefing, by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Disaster Risk Reduction Margareta Wahlström, provided an overview of the work of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the United Nations focal point for coordinating disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts. Taking steps towards creating a truly inclusive society was a key point in this briefing. It also made reference to the International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) which is observed annually on 13 October and whose theme this year is “Living with Disabilities and Disasters.”
Key points discussed and questions raised at the panel discussion
• SRSG Wahlström provided an overview of UNISDR, as the primary coordinator within the UN system for DRR efforts. UNISDR ensures the implementation of the “International Strategy for Disaster Reduction”, which advocates a shift from the traditional culture of reaction to a culture of prevention. Her office also promotes the “Hyogo Framework for Action, 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters”, a ten-year plan of action adopted in 2005 by 168 governments to protect against disasters.
• The discussion also focused on the International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR), commemorated annually on 13 October, the 2013 theme for which is “Living with Disabilities and Disasters”. SRSG Wahlström outlined the pre- and post-2015 plans for the “Hyogo Framework for Action”, which currently does not make reference to persons with disabilities.
• The post-2015 version of the framework aims to incorporate into the planning and implementation process, the unique needs of persons with disabilities. According to the SRSG, people with disabilities die in higher numbers than other populations during disasters as “their dependencies are not currently respected” during emergency situations. The lack of inclusion, representation, and interest of persons with disabilities into the DRR policy-making and planning process is to be rectified in the post-2015 “Hyogo Framework for Action”.
• SRSG Wahlström called on civil society, community organizations, neighbors, and governments, to make investments that guide planning and the response to DRR, and to enable society overall, to be inclusive of people with disabilities. According to the SRSG , it is critical to integrate the contribution of all actors in planning policies and to make that information accessible to all people.
• SRSG Wahlström outlined the role of UNISDR within the UN system and larger international community. She said that UNISDR in and of itself is not an “expert on DRR and does not claim to be”; rather, it aims to mobilize experts by bringing them together in order to improve DRR efforts.
• An audience member posed a question about why UNISDR and the disaster risk community does not aspire to eliminate disasters entirely. Ms. Wahlstrõm agreed that this was an “intuitive question” surrounding the complete eradication of disasters, and noted that she had had a “reflective conversation with a colleague about it recently.” She said that the goal of a total elimination of disasters might not be achievable, and therefore, the disaster risk community should strive to improve the early detection of disaster situations as well as planning and response efforts to DRR.
• In addition, the SRSG said that science and technology, while critical in helping us to define and obtain the goal of DRR, do not provide the sole answer. Citizens are obliged to be aware of what is in the immediate environment, and for informing themselves, particularly in the absence or failure of technology, about how to survive in a disaster. With particular reference to Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters, the SRSG remarked on the increase of self-organizing and volunteerism as important in disaster response and prevention.
• Mr. Ramu Damodaran, Deputy Director for Partnership and Public Engagement, United Nations Department of Public Information, Outreach Division, and Chief of the United Nations Academic Impact Initiative
• Ms. Margareta Wahlstrõm, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction
The Briefing was attended by 125 NGO representatives and their guests. A question and answer period followed the panel discussion.
The following video clip was shown at the Briefing:
PSA – IDDR 2013 [Public Service Announcement for the 2013 International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR)]
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