Americas Adopts Disaster Risk Reduction Plan

Around 50 countries and territories of the Americas at a United Nations-supported conference in Montreal, Canada, agreed a Regional Action Plan to better protect their citizens from the destruction caused by natural and man-made disasters.

The plan, which is the centerpiece of the Montreal Declaration outcome document, marks the end of three days of deliberation and discussion by close to 1,000 government delegations and officials; non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society and other representatives, under the umbrella of the UN-backed Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas.

The conference, supported by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), aimed to put into action the principles and priorities agreed by more than 180 countries across the world in the 2015 Sendai Framework on disaster risk reduction, named after the Japanese city in which it was adopted.

There were 16 “specific actions” arising, covering four key areas, namely understanding risk better; improving governance when it comes to dealing with disasters; improving on resilience at all levels regarding risk reduction efforts, and finally, better preparedness.

The Action Plan encourages the region to respond to the four priorities set out by the Sendai Framework. It makes a strong point of enhancing education and research in disaster risk reduction and promoting a multi stakeholder approach with a focus on exchanging best practices. It also calls for enhanced coordination among Member states and partners, including new options for multi-source financing and sharing knowledge as a means of cooperation.

According to UNISDR, while disaster deaths have gradually fallen around the world – expect in anomalous years marked by mega-disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami or the 2010 Haiti earthquake – economic impacts have skyrocketed and are now estimated at $500 billion a year.

Hurricane Matthew alone caused damage estimated at $15 billion when it ripped across Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, the United States and the Canadian Maritimes last October.

The Regional Action Plan now goes forward to the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction, taking place in Cancun, Mexico, in May 2017.