, SENDAI CITY, Japan, Mar 14 – President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for the scaling up of efforts at all levels to reduce disasters and mitigate risks.
He said although the time, place, frequency or magnitude of calamities resulting from natural causes cannot be changed, their impact can be minimized through adequate preparation.
“And because we can, I am here to show solidarity with you, and with the peoples of the world,” President Kenyatta told the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) which opened Saturday in the Japanese Eastern city of Sendai.
He acknowledged that while significant achievement has been made in disaster risk reduction since the 2nd Conference held in Kobe 10 years ago, there was room for improvement.
“This is because disasters remain a major threat to our sustainable development. They have not only undermined gains made, but also reversed some,” the President said.
The President spoke as a strong tropical storm lashed the Pacific island of Vanuatu, a reminder that the threat wrought by disasters was real.
President Kenyatta cited the example of Africa where extreme weather patterns have caused droughts and floods threatening the continent’s sustainable development. He also cited earthquakes, tsunamis and tropical storms in the Asia-Pacific region.
In Kenya and the Horn of Africa region, the President said persistent droughts cause food insecurity, conflicts over dwindling water resources, and general economic instability.
“Climate change has further worsened the situation as it is one of the primary drivers of the frequency and magnitude of such hazards,” the President told the conference.
President Kenyatta said through collective efforts the world can effectively combat disasters and cultivate resilience, especially among the poor.
“We can reduce injuries, deaths, and damage to property. Our call is to support those affected to make them resilient. I believe this is possible because available scientific information and knowledge on disasters and risks reduction is both reliable and advanced,” President Kenyatta said.
He emphasized the need for mobilization of sufficient financing and appropriate technologies to boost disaster preparedness, particularly among African states, small island developing states and the Least Developed Countries.
“We have to scale up investments and strengthen relevant national institutions responsible for disaster preparedness and management,” he said.
At the global level, President Kenyatta urged for a renewal of political commitment and revitalization of international cooperation and partnerships for disaster and risk reduction.
The President said international cooperation in information gathering, early warning, research and development must also be enhanced.
He said Kenya supports a set of global sustainable development goals (SDGs) that not only recognize disaster and risk reduction as important, but also emphasize resilience building as an integral part of sustainability.
“Let me close by reiterating that disaster and risk management are vital in tackling poverty and inequalities, and in the protection of our environment,” he said.
Other world leaders agreed on the need to increase funding for disaster risk reduction, noting that disasters are a big challenge to both developed and developing countries.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the poorest and most vulnerable people must especially be helped to cope with disasters.
“We must respond to the world’s growing needs by empowering individuals, supporting communities and backing promises with resources,” the UN Secretary General said.
He said disaster reduction is in everybody’s interest and is everybody’s responsibility.
Ban observed that disaster risk reduction is a frontline defence against the impact of climate change.
“It is a smart investment and a wise venture in saving lives,” Mr. Ban said.
Ban said the Sendai conference marks the first stop in a series of linked milestones that will see the world gather in Addis Ababa to discuss financing for development in July, New York in September and close the year in Paris with a climate agreement in December.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his Government’s provision of $4 million towards the promotion of global disaster risk reduction efforts.
He pledged Japan’s assistance to the international community through its technology and knowledge on disaster risk reduction.
Other speakers included King Mswati III of Swaziland, President Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), President Baldwin Lonsdale (Vanuatu) and President Emmanuel Mori (Micronesia).
Earlier, President Kenyatta met Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko who attend the opening ceremony. He also met Ban as well as World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on the sidelines of the meeting.