Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement marking International Day for Disaster Reduction today (13 October):
“The motto of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction is ”Live to tell“. Because that is exactly the point of disaster reduction: saving people’s lives through prevention and by improving resilience – so that they can live to tell.
Over the last two decades, the frequency and intensity of natural disasters have greatly increased around the world. The number has doubled in that time to 400 a year. At the same time, the humanitarian need of those suffering hardship in the disaster zones has increased hugely.
This increase shows us clearly that we cannot wait until a disaster has happened before we respond. The majority of disasters, after all, do not come as a surprise. We can help in advance to prevent suffering!
The Federal Foreign Office has launched projects which identify thresholds and set preparatory measures in motion even before the crisis becomes acute. By acting before a disaster takes hold, it is possible to prevent the worst.
One example is El Niño. At regular intervals of several years, this global weather phenomenon affects many regions of the world, causing long-lasting drought on the one hand and heavy flooding on the other. It has been the subject of much scientific research. Lessons have been learnt about where rivers will burst their banks, and where mudslides are likeliest following heavy rainfalls. Hence prevention is possible! This must be our approach for the coming years.
In the past few years, Germany has lobbied actively for the adoption of the international Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. Now we must give active support to its implementation. We will continue to call at international level for the establishment of an effective disaster risk reduction system which prevents disaster risks from developing, reduces existing risks and strengthens the resilience of communities in the face of disasters.”
In 1989 the United Nations declared 13 October International Day for Disaster Reduction. The idea behind this day is to encourage all citizens and governments to get involved in building resilient communities and nations which can withstand disasters. The Federal Foreign Office has long since been engaged in disaster risk reduction. In 2013, the Federal Foreign Office launched the Preparedness Initiative, which led to the adoption of the Principles of Preparedness at the International Preparedness Conference in Berlin on 11 June 2013. The Principles focus in particular on the individual role of the various players and their responsibility in the sphere of humanitarian disaster risk reduction.
The German Government was actively involved in the negotiations on the new international Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, adopted in Sendai, Japan in 2015. The Sendai Framework, which follows on from the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, offers clear guidelines on how countries and civil societies around the world can avert the emergence of new disaster risks, strengthen the resilience of populations and institutions to crises and natural disasters, and reduce existing risks – among other things through effective disaster risk reduction and preparedness measures.