CANCUN, Mexico, May 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
Cutting human, economic and infrastructure losses caused by
disasters is imperative, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto
told the start of a U.N. conference, urging wealthy countries to
help vulnerable nations limit their exposure to natural hazards.
Peña Nieto said on Wednesday that threats such as
earthquakes and storms "recognise no national boundaries or
frontiers or orders of government".
Ninety percent of deaths from disasters happen in low- and
middle-income countries, he noted at the opening of the
three-day conference on disasters in the Mexican resort of
"In the Caribbean, there are some economies and societies
that are especially vulnerable in light of disaster situations
that have been aggravated as a result of climate change,” he
said, expressing a commitment to support neighbouring Caribbean
Peña Nieto said Mexico was exposed to meteorological,
geographical and volcanic risks, with a quarter of the
population living under the threat of cyclones, while a third
was vulnerable to earthquakes. At least 166 disasters had
affected the country since 2012, he noted.
“In Mexico, we are well aware that we are fortunate, that we
have the institutions available to us - notably our armed
forces, our civil institutions, as well as the human and
material resources necessary to have a national civil protection
system,” he said.
Running until Friday, the Global Platform for Disaster Risk
Reduction is the first major meeting since the 15-year Sendai
Framework was hammered out in Japan in 2015, setting targets for
governments to cut deaths, economic losses and infrastructure
damage from disasters by 2030.
The seven Sendai targets also include curbing disruption to
services such as health and education, and widening access to
early warning systems and public disaster risk information.
Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary-general of the United
Nations, called for more assistance for poorer countries most
impacted by disasters. Tackling climate and disaster risk was
essential to meeting the world's development goals, she added.
Mohammed said the Cancun conference marked a move from
commitment to action aimed at implementing the Sendai Framework
goals, and a shift towards managing disaster risk rather than
dealing with the aftermath of catastrophes.
“Human and economic losses from disasters cannot continue at
current levels if we are going to progress with the Sustainable
Development Goals,” she told the conference.
Organisations - from governments to mayors and women’s
groups - needed to put more emphasis on trying to prevent
disasters, which can wipe out a poor country’s entire gross
domestic product (GDP) overnight, she added.
She highlighted the case of Haiti, which lost 120 percent of
its GDP in a devastating 2010 earthquake, while last year’s
Hurricane Matthew cost 32 percent of its GDP.
A communique released after a leaders' meeting led by Peña
Nieto said countries recognised the fast-growing cost of natural
disasters, exacerbated by climate change, which was complicating
efforts to put risk management measures in place.
Recognising the link between climate change and water-linked
threats, it called on countries to manage their water resources
in a way that enables them to adapt to climate shifts.
“We emphasise the urgency to take immediate actions to
reverse the current trends of water scarcity, floods,
degradation of sewer systems and sanitation, and water-related
disasters,” said the communique.
Urging countries to step up efforts to meet the Sendai
goals, it called on them to assess the risks to critical
infrastructure by 2019, improve collection of disaster data,
allocate budgets for disaster risk reduction, and strengthen
building codes and regulatory frameworks.
It also backed measures to transfer risk so as to better
protect people and their livelihoods, while promoting resilient
housing, infrastructure and social development.
(Reporting by Sophie Hares, editing by Megan Rowling. Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.