17 May 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appealed to all nations to bolster efforts to curb disaster risk, stressing that decisive action taken now can be “one of the best investments countries can make.” Speaking at the launch ceremony in Bahrain of the first-ever “Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction,” Mr. Ban said stepped up spending in slashing risk is “critical to saving lives and livelihoods.” Further, it is essential in reaching the aims set forth in both the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, and the Hyogo Framework for Action, the 10-year programme adopted in 2005 which calls for investing heavily in disaster preparedness and strengthening the capacity of disaster-prone countries to address the risks. Increased investment by nations “is critical to saving lives and livelihoods,” he underscored. “We know the dividends,” the Secretary-General said. “Reducing disaster risk can help countries decrease poverty, safeguard development and adapt to climate change. This, in turn, can promote global security, stability and sustainability.” He noted that last year alone, 236,000 people were killed more than 300 disasters, while 200 million others were directly affected, with damages totaling over $180 billion. The new report by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) finds that global disaster risk is on the rise because of unsafe cities, environmental destruction and climate change, jeopardizing the lives of hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Low- and middle-income nations are becoming increasingly susceptible to disasters because of the lack of government attention, unplanned urbanization and deplorable economic conditions, it notes. The 200-page study is based on a massive database, with information culled from UN, governmental, scientific and academic sources over a 32-year period from 1975-2007. Disaster risk is highly concentrated in poorer nations with weaker governance, the report says, with just three countries – Bangladesh, China and India – accounting for 75 per cent of mortality risk from floods. Meanwhile, nations with small and vulnerable economies, such as many small island developing States, have the highest economic vulnerability and low resilience to natural hazards. Mr. Ban today said that “our capacity to cope with natural hazards is much greater than we realize,” pointing to the 20-point action plan proposed by the report to curb disaster risk and its call for a transformation in development thinking by putting emphasis on resilience and pre-emptive measures. Further, the study urges actions to limit the impact of disasters on populations by improving squatter settlements, providing land and infrastructure for the urban poor, strengthening rural livelihoods and protecting ecosystems, among other suggestions. “Such measures have great potential,” the Secretary-General stressed. Addressing reporters after the report’s launch, he said that “progress has been made in early warning and preparedness programmes worldwide but much more needs to be done.”While in Bahrain, he is scheduled to meet with Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, as well as other senior officials.