8. Message from the ISDR Director

Message from Salvano Briceno, Director, International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) Secretariat, Geneva

The Haiti Earthquake of 12 January 2010 caused over 200,000 casualties and billions of dollars in damage. It has created challenges which have continued well beyond the emergency phase as a wide range of services and facilities vital to the Haitian people, society and economy are still unable to function a year after the initial event.

The challenges for making Haiti – and other nations and communities in seismically active areas – safer and more resilient will no doubt be described again in your Seminar today. They include urban management, construction standards and practices related to the built environment as well as the traditional emergency response and humanitarian relief measures. Mainstreaming and institutionalizing these risk reduction processes has been a significant challenge to Haiti and other Caribbean developing nations.

Many of these issues were discussed in some detail in Haiti in November 2007 when the participants at a Regional Conference on Risk Reduction adopted the St Marc Plan of Action – appealing for regional and national collaborative initiatives to implement Disaster Risk Reduction based on the guidance provided by the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA). The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (Secretariat) in collaboration with other like minded bodies has continued to support this process with limited success.

We commend the team at York University and our Canadian colleagues for taking the initiative to mark the anniversary of the January 2010 Haitian Earthquake by looking for lessons. We look forward to Canada continuing to advance its own disaster risk reduction and Hyogo Framework related actions based on the Canadian National Platform launched last October (2010) at a Conference I attended in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

A strong Canadian Platform will no doubt influence and facilitate others in the hemisphere including those in the Caribbean as there are close and functional linkages between the nations and societies of the Americas. However It will not be easy as the most important task of building intersectoral and transboundarypartnerships and teamwork among all stakeholders in risk reduction and enhancing resilience remains elusive.  In the case of Haiti and its future, resilience building must continue and must engage a very wide range of stakeholders.

There are many lessons from this tragic event for local and external responders, national organisations, entities concerned with public safety, development, planning, humanitarian issues the natural hazards communities, civil society and the private sector as well as traditional development partners, and other external entities. These lessons need to be documented, learnt and effectively disseminated if we are to avoid similar catastrophes and address relief, recovery and reconstruction over the long term with coordinated, proactive management approaches based on sound science. The ISDR secretariat has actively promoted the expansion and creation of Knowledge Networks involving tertiary and research institutions as a response to this challenge.

The ISDR team looks forward to maintaining close contact with you and hope that this is only the first of many similar knowledge and experience sharing events that this group will undertake.

From Geneva, with my kind regards and best wishes for a productive discussion and tangible outcomes.

Salvano Jan 2011