News and Events
Volume 1 - Edition 9
February 2005

United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction

Approximately 4,500 delegates from 170 governments and NGOs, with more than 40 ministers attended the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Japan from January 18-22, 2005.

Work was conducted through many meetings of representatives of governments, thematic sessions of experts and public forum. The conference generated four important documents:
(1) Review of the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action for a Safer World;
(2) Programme outcome document
entitled ‘Building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters: Hyogo Framework for action 2005–2015’;
(3) Hyogo Declaration; and
(4) Common statement of the Special Session on the Indian Ocean Disaster: Risk Reduction for a Safer Future.

A special report of Munich Re indicated that 2004 was the second costliest year on record reporting $140 billion in economic losses (data as of January 10, 2005). In addition, 2004 was the costliest natural catastrophe year ever for the insurance industry - $40 billion in insured losses.  Economic losses include: $73 billion in Asia (mainly earthquake) and $63 billion in North and South America. Losses were dominated by weather-related disasters, warning that climate change will develop into a serious danger unless radical measures are taken soon.  Major disasters in 2004 include: earthquake in Japan ($10 billion in losses), tsunami in the Indian Ocean (over 220,000 people killed), four hurricanes that hit Florida and extreme floods that killed more than 2000 people in the Caribbean and more than 2500 in South Asia. 

"Rarely has tragedy made a conference so topical and timely," says Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General. 

Some of the key messages evolving from this important conference include:
Ensure that disaster risk reduction is a national and local priority with a strong institutional basis for implementation;
(2) Identify, assess and monitor disaster risks and enhance early warning;
(3) Use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels;
(4) Reduce the underlying risk factors; and
(5) Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response. World has committed to reduce disaster losses of lives and other social, economic and environmental assets. 

ICLR also took a very active role in the conference. Western's Civil & Environmental Engineering Professor and ICLR Chair in Engineering, Slobodan Simonovic talked on topics such as: New International Initiatives for Research and Risk Mitigation of Floods and Landslides; Integrated Flood Risk Management Through Appropriate Knowledge Sharing and Capacity Building Systems; and Effective and Successful Risk Communication as an Integral Part of Disaster Risk Management.

Simonovic also presented a new inter-agency initiative aimed at minimizing loss of life and reducing damage caused by floods in a session chaired by Professor Dr. Hans van Ginkel, UN Under-Secretary General, Rector of the UN University and open by Koichiro Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO and by Michel Jarraud, Secretary General of WMO.

 "I am very proud that the International Flood Initiative that I worked on was successfully formally launched in Kobe," says Simonovic.  "This new initiative is set to integrate the scientific, operational, educational and public awareness raising aspects of flood management, including the social response and communication dimensions of flooding and related disaster preparedness.  The goal is to halve the number of flood-related human loss of life by 2015."

  Celebrating 50 Years of Engineering Excellence
Faculty of Engineering Home search engineering Phone Book University of Western Ontario Home Western Engineering Home

Last Updated: 07/02/05