Local governments urged to join UN campaign on disaster risk reduction

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Former United Nations (UN) official Margareta Wahlstrom hopes to encourage more local government units (LGUs) to join the United Nations’ (UN) international strategy for disaster reduction campaign.

The Swede finished her two terms as the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) last November and her leadership has resulted in more than 170 provinces, cities and municipalities joining the "Making Cities and Communities Resilient" campaign.

The province of Albay, the city of Makati and the municipality of San Francisco in Cebu's Camotes Island are the role models of the UN campaign.

In 2011, San Francisco won the UN-backed Sasakawa Award and the US$25,000 top prize for its implementation of the "Purok system" where village members voluntarily contribute to an emergency fund for those in need after a disaster.

"We’ve already, during these four days, met two municipalities here in Metro Manila … We have one representative here who is what we call local champion, a former mayor, and he has made himself a champion to engage the cities and that’s the most effective way, of course. It’s when one city talks to another, one LGU talks to another, that’s when they actually get mobilized. So, what we would like to see is that this, of course, becomes a very strong national policy and that municipalities should follow the model of the ones that have already engaged," Wahlstrom said during Tuesday’s press briefing in Malacañang.

Wahlstrom, who was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2008, stressed the importance of assessing the vulnerability of the LGUs.

"What do they do? Well, first they assess their own vulnerabilities and then, of course, they have to do a plan, which is what I already mentioned, the plan is about to happen and the plan is not only about the disaster. It’s actually about what you do to mitigate the disasters, or understand your environmental risks, understand the risks of disasters be they your volcanoes, your watersheds, and the weather, of course. And then engage the entire population, be inclusive, then cities are better, LGUs are better prepared. And as I already mentioned, there are resources to be drawn up on," she explained.

"Now, how do you measure progress? There is the strong wish to measure resilience. Making cities resilient, they want to know that if we work hard on our plan for five years, 10 years, are we more resilient? And that measurement, there is now an instrument available for cities to become much more aware of where they are on that scale of one to 10. So, local governments are important but communities and people are maybe even more important. I think this cannot really happen unless communities are fully mobilized," said Walhstrom, who was replaced by Australian Robert Glasser.

Also present at the press briefing was National Climate Change Commission vice chairperson, Secretary Emmanuel "Manny" de Guzman, who said Wahlstrom has made seven missions to the Philippines since 2011.

"During these missions, she advocated for safe schools, resilient cities, build back better, improved early warning and preparedness, resilient business practices and improved understanding of disaster risks. She has also engaged Filipino champion parliamentarians, business leaders, provincial governors, and city and municipal mayors," said de Guzman.

"Her engagement with parliamentarian champions in the Philippines also supported the strong legislative and policy framework for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in the Philippines, which she noted the number of times as an exemplary legislation in Asia. Her engagement with local governments in the Philippines has led to global introduction of the exceptional work by champion local governments in the Philippines, including in Albay and in Cebu, on such topics as promotion of zero casualty in Albay and the swift and resilient shift to recovery of Cebu province after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)," he added.

"Her advocacy and topics, such safe schools and hospitals, engaged the Department of Education and local governments on school safety assessment, disaster risk reduction in education and preparedness in schools. Her advocacy with the private sector resulted in the launch in the Philippines of the Risk-Sensitive Societies, or ARISE, with now more than 20 companies as members and working on topics such as improving business continuity planning, public private partnerships for pre-disaster planning, and disaster risk education for the private sector," de Guzman said. (PND)


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