EU local governments at the helm in new UN disaster risk action plan

By on 14/10/2016 | Updated on 24/09/2020

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) on Thursday signed an action plan that aims to boost resilience of cities and regions in Europe.

The 2016 to 2020 plan, also signed by the EU Committee of the Regions, includes commitments to significantly increase the number of cities with local disaster risk reduction strategies, and raise awareness of the UN’s Making Cities Resilient campaign in Europe.

The campaign has signed up more than 3,370 cities, and encourages activities such as city-to-city exchanges and local-level peer reviews, to boost resilience in cities.

The action plan represents an “open recognition that local and regional governments are on the frontline and need to be prepared”, said Committee of the Regions president Markku Markkula.

“We have to make sure there is knowledge-sharing between all levels of government, to promote awareness-raising and facilitate the sharing of best practices and data among policymakers and communities,” he added.

Robert Glasser, head of UNISDR, said: “Europe stands for excellence when it comes to disaster risk governance and huge efforts are being made to invest in resilient infrastructure, engage with local communities and to build back better. Nonetheless, more needs to be done to ensure the sustainability of our economies, and the resilience of our communities.”

Natural disasters have caused more than 80,000 deaths and €95bn in economic losses over the last decade within the EU alone.

The plan was adopted on 13 October, the International Day for Disaster Reduction, at an event attended by Giuseppe Rinaldi, president of the province of Rieti, Italy, a region that was hit by a strong earthquake in August of this year. UK councillor Harvey Siggs was also present; his region, Somerset, was hit by severe flooding in 2014. Siggs emphasised the importance of working with the private sector for better and more available data on disasters.

The plan aims to accelerate progress on targets set out in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-30, a voluntary agreement endorsed by the UN in 2015. It recognises the primary role of state governments in reducing disaster risk but says responsibility must also be shared with other organisations, including local governments. One of its goals is to increase the number of countries with national and local risk reduction strategies by 2020.

The Committee of the Regions is the voice of regions and cities in the EU; its members are elected regional and local representatives from the 28 member states.

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About Tamsin Rutter

Tamsin Rutter is a journalist based in Brussels, Belgium. She writes on a variety of topics, including public services, cities, local and central government and education. She was formerly the deputy editor of the Guardian's Public Leaders Network and Housing Network.

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