UN, EU and local leaders must come together to monitor, assess and support regions, cities and villages build resilient communities.
On the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) held a debate with Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, and Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, on how to increase resilience to disasters. Sharing personal experiences of the impact and response to recent disasters, leaders at all levels emphasised the importance of taking a coordinated approach to reduce risks. Local and regional leaders called on the UN and EU to work together with the CoR to monitor, assess and strengthen preparedness in regions and cities. Building local, regional and national resilience through robust risk management structures, supported by technical and financial measures, are key steps to reducing the impact of disasters.
The debate came after a summer during which many of Europe's regions, cities and villages were severely affected by natural disasters. The devastating floods and fires that ravaged Europe showed the need to ramp up prevention, preparedness and response, combined with accelerating climate adaptation and the green transition. As local and regional authorities are usually responsible for disaster risk management, risk prevention and disaster response, they demanded more attention be paid to lessons learned on the ground. They warned that more dedicated EU funds for adaptation and rebuilding will be needed given the increasing severity and occurrence of disasters due to climate change.
During his speechApostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions and Governor of the region of Central Macedonia in Greece, said "We need to restore our natural environment and build more resilient communities. I would propose that the European Commission, UNDRR and the Committee launch a Task Force to review resilience locally and regionally, identify the needs and assess the coordination between the different levels of government during the times of crisis. We could establish a 'Regional Resilience Platform' to support local and regional authorities to strengthen their resilience, informing them of the support available and share best practices."
Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Head of UNDRR said “As we come out of the pandemic crisis, we must build back better, build resilience, and not create new risks. To achieve a transformative approach to disaster risk reduction, it is necessary to work together. Especially considering that cities and regions are at the forefront when a disaster strikes.”
Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management said: "Local communities are the first to be hit when a natural disaster strikes. Regional authorities play a crucial role in the immediate aftermath of emergencies. But also in raising disaster risk awareness and ensuring prevention, preparedness and protection. It is therefore important that you have a prominent role in the shaping of disaster risk management strategies. As part of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, we will establish a dedicated Knowledge Network – an open, commonly owned shared space for all experts to exchange and share views. The European Union will actively involve local and regional actors through this framework."
Local leaders further highlight that funding for emergency response is still about 20 times higher than for prevention and preparedness. While they welcome the additional funds through NextGenerationEU - the temporary instrument designed to boost the EU's recovery - they urged that disaster prevention and emergency response require long-term commitment and reinforcement.
As disasters know no borders, removing obstacles to cross-border cooperation will further help to enhance the resilience of cities and regions. According to local authorities, effective cross-border cooperation would bring significant advantages for the 37.5% of the EU population living in border areas.
The International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction began in 1989, after the United Nations General Assembly called for a dedicated day to promote a culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction at the global level. It is an opportunity to acknowledge the progress being made toward reducing disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) includes also actions to tackle the impacts of climate change and to halt the loss of biodiversity. At the global level, two major events will shape the capacity to speed up climate action and to reverse the decline of biodiversity and degradation of our ecosystems: the UNFCCC COP26 and the UN CBD COP15.
Since 2012, the European Committee of the Regions and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk ReductionRegional Office for Europe (UNDRR) have been collaborating to promote disaster risk reduction (DRR) at local level in European countries. The signing ceremony of the renewed UNDRR-CoR Joint Action Plan took place on 27 September. The CoR-UNDRR Joint Action Plan 2021-2022 includes collaboration on the UNDRR global initiative Making Cities Resilient 2030 (MCR2030). MCR2030 works toward building resilience to disasters at local level and provides practical support to cities and regions via a range of instruments, processes, tools and activities in building resilience and capacity at local level.
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