UN: UN conference stresses role of women in building disaster resilience

New York, US (PANA) - Senior UN official, governments and civil society representatives on Saturday highlighted the positive actions of women in planning and decision-making to make their communities safer before, during and after disasters strike.

They also emphasized that risk reduction efforts can never be fully effective or sustainable if the needs and voices of women are ignored.

PANA reports that the speakers made the statements at the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, which began on Saturday.

A UN statement, obtained by PANA in New York, stated that a key multi-stakeholder dialogue on "Mobilizing Women's Leadership in Disaster Risk Reduction", heard participants urge greater efforts to expand and strengthen opportunities, and make full use of the leadership of women in disaster risk reduction.

"When disasters strike, women are most heavily impacted but often overcome immense
obstacles to lead response efforts and provide care and support, even at risk of their own
health and well-being," it quoted UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director,  
Ms. Ertharin Cousin, as saying.

Ms. Cousin noted that the "global reset" beginning Saturday in Sendai is aimed at ensuring a safer and more prosperous world for all, including steps to place women at the centre of disaster risk reduction efforts.

"Without those steps, none of the ambitious goals proposed this year would be met, and
disasters indeed exacerbated pre-existing barriers and inequalities that women faced, putting them at greater risk of injury and death.

"As such, women must be sitting in the lead chairs during these discussions; they must be part of the decision-making, they must be part of this conversation," she stated.

She also stressed that it was time to cast aside the restrictive view of women as vulnerable and merely accepting aid, noting that, indeed, women must be recognized for who they are and the roles they undertake, which are central pillars of disaster response and recovery.

"We must recognize and mobilize women going forward, and it is time to move from aspiration to implementation," Ms. Cousin said, and called for efforts to ensure commitments made in the landmark Beijing Platform for Action, which is this year marking its 20th anniversary, as well as the Hyogo Framework.

On his part, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director, Babatunde Osotimehin, said the Sendai Conference offers a new opportunity for the world to galvanize around a common disaster risk reduction agenda and commit to collective actions that put women at its centre.

"The fact that serious gaps remain in the area is not for lack of guidance and tools on relevant gender-based approaches and best practices. What is needed is requisite political will to make ensure that women's voices were enhanced and participation ensured. All such efforts must bolster women's rights, included sexual and reproductive health rights," he said.

Dr. Osotimehin said that dedicated resources are lacking and as such, money must be devoted to disaster risk reduction and women must be empowered to play a real role in that area.

He also said sustained and sustainable disaster risk reduction requires an accountability framework with indicators and targets to measure progress and ensure that national and local actors move towards implementation.

In a keynote address, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said his country had endured many disasters and such harsh experiences had Japan keenly aware that the power of women is essential for risk reduction as well as reconstruction in the wake of such events.

Mr. Abe said that Japan had long understood the importance of enhancing the voice, visibility and participation of women.

"No matter how much the ground shakes, we will remain calm in our hearts," he said, quoting the powerful words of women in one of the districts he had visited in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and pledging Japan's ongoing strong commitment to ensuring all women played a greater role in disaster risk reduction.

The aim of the Sendai Conference, which wraps up Wednesday, 18 March, is to update the landmark Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), agreed decade ago and named after the Japanese city in which it was negotiated and which details the work required from all sectors and actors to reduce disaster losses.

According to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), while progress has been made in the implementation of the HFA, it is widely recognized that serious gaps and challenges remain in delivering on the international community's commitments to gender equality and women's rights in disaster risk reduction efforts.

The UN said engagement and leadership of women as change agents in their societies are still often overlooked in disaster risk management, where women are often categorized as a vulnerable group.
-0- PANA AA/VAO 14March2015

14 march 2015 18:42:42

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