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Blog: Bringing Ecosystems into Disaster Risk Reduction at the Asian Ministerial Conference

22-Nov-2012

By Marie-Jose Vervest

Along with Yus Rusila Noor of our Indonesia office, I recently participated in the 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, from 22 – 25 October 2012 as part of the Partners for Resilience consortium. Our participation was a unique opportunity to highlight the importance of healthy ecosystems for resilient livelihoods and the use of ‘natural infrastructure’ as a buffer against extreme events.

Our introduction to AMCDRR

It was the first time that Wetlands International participated in this high level policy event on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). The AMCDRR is a biennial Ministerial meeting on DRR and serves as a forum for Asian governments to get the latest scientific information, exchange experiences on successful practices and lessons, and provide an update on the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, a global blueprint for DRR adopted by 168 UN Member States in 2005.

It was a huge event, with 2,600 participants from 72 delegate countries which met during High Level Ministerial meetings, Technical Sessions, a film festival and market place. Apart from Wetlands International, there were hardly any representatives from the environmental sector.

To put the importance of the conference into perspective, it’s worth noting that Asia is the most disaster-prone continent in the world. In 2011, 45% of all disasters, including the Japan tsunami, occurred in the Asian region.

Strengthening local capacity

The conference was opened by the President of Indonesia, Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the first ever ‘Global Champion of DRR’ who received this award from UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in 2011. In his speech, President Yudhoyono emphasized the key role of civil society in providing inputs and co-implementing DRR policies and plans. He noted the strong linkages of civil society with local communities who, in the end, will benefit from reduced disaster risk and should be prepared.

The president’s keynote fit nicely with the theme of the conference, “Strengthening Local Capacity for Disaster Risk Reduction”. The meeting sought consensus from participants to make commitments on developing action plans to improve local capacities on DRR, including integrated partnerships which need to be established.

The president also highlighted the importance of integrating climate change and climate projections into national DRR planning processes.

Reducing disaster risk through ‘natural infrastructure’

During the various sessions we highlighted the need to increase investments in ‘natural infrastructure’ such as coastal wetlands, mangroves as buffers against extreme events, and emphasised the fact that environmental degradation in coastal, river basin and mountain areas increases the risk of disaster.

A highlight for me was the presentation I made on the innovative approach of Partners for Resilience (PfR) to integrate ecosystem and climate adaptation issues into existing community-based DRR work – spotlighting our efforts to create resilient communities in Indonesia, the Philippines and India. We were invited to make this presentation by the Indonesian National Agency for Disaster Management during their side event, “Promoting Community-based DRR in the Asia Pacific region: lessons learned from the implementation of disaster resilience initiatives at the village level”.

As part of the PfR Indonesia team, we actively promoted our approach of ‘Ecosystem and Climate Smart DRR’ to tackle the vulnerability of communities and reduce disaster risk specifically in East Nusa Tenggara Timur (Flores and Timor islands), the region where we are active on the ground.

Integrating Ecosystems in DRR: a good start is made…

The final conference statement strongly recognised the need to integrate climate change adaptation into DRR policies and approaches. It is very encouraging that, although not yet widely acknowledged, the 2012 Yogjakarta Declaration makes a reference to the role of ecosystems and natural infrastructure in DRR.

Concretely, it states that local resilience should include natural aspects as well as infrastructure capacities through community-based mechanisms and calls for ‘enhanced investment in natural resources management...at national and local levels’.

In conclusion, a good start was made to promote the integration of ecosystem approaches in DRR policies and practices.

For more information see our new vision on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Contact Marie-Jose at: Marie-Jose.Vervest @ wetlands.org

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