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Johan Knols
Blogger, safari specialist, professional wildlife guide (Woerden, Netherlands)

Johan Knols is the owner of the planyoursafari blog. He studied tourism in the Netherlands and has been working in the African tourism industry for nearly 15 years. Starting as lodge manager in the Serengeti in Tanzania, he eventually owned his own mobile safari company in Botswana. Johan received his professional wildlife- guides licence in 1998 and was awarded the title of Honorary Wildlife Officer with the Botswana Wildlife and National Parks authority in 2005. During his time in Africa he has managed upmarket safari lodges and has done overland trips in the luxury and semi-luxury sector. At the moment he is a full-time blogger giving tips and advices on everything related to African safaris.


Addition to the MDGs: Disaster Risk Reduction

Published 02nd August 2010 - 11 comments - 3631 views -

The new approach of the UN

I have to admit, I also never heard about Jean Yves Jason, the mayor of Port-au-Prince. A few days ago he made headlines in a UN News Centre article about the Shanghai Forum On Disaster Risk Reduction.

If one man had the right to speak during the conference it is Jason. During the last Haiti quake he lost 75% of his staff and with it most (if not all) facilities that were paramount in coping with the disaster. Government buildings, hospitals, police - and fire stations were turned to dust. No wonder he told the delegates that they ‘have to get ready for disasters’.

But is Jean Yves call for everyone being ready for disaster not an unrealistic one? Sorry, in my humble opinion it is. Remember hurricane Katrina? It occurred in a developed country with highly efficient disaster management systems, yet, it was utter chaos. (In the video, the mayor of New Orleans speaks to a reporter on a local radio channel).

During the conference in Shanghai delegates discussed the possibility to include Disaster Risk Reduction in the existing eight Development Goals and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction sees it as a way of accelerating the MDGs by reducing the risks to natural hazards. This is understandable. Increasing development and seeing it disappear due to a disaster is terrible. It is a step back instead of one forward. But we need to take a closer look at how the UN wants to achieve disaster reduction.

It is the ‘making cities resilient’ program that has been set up to minimize disaster impact. What it basically means is to build stronger buildings in general and stronger hospitals and schools in particular. I am sure that the developing countries would like to do that. The question is with what?

On numerous occasions we have seen that most developed countries fail to deliver their 0,7% of GDP to the developing nations. And that was before this idea about disaster risk reduction was seen as an accelerator of the MDGs.

While being on the UN News Centre site, another article, directly related to the previous one caught my attention. It was about preserving natural heritages from disaster. Irina Bukova (UNESCO Director-General) stated that: Unesco “acted rapidly to assess the damage and assist Haitian authorities in safeguarding their heritage.” as “Damage to culture also wounds the human spirit,”

Two questions formed in my head to which I battle to find an answer:

1. How will the developing countries realize all these strong (read: more expensive) buildings when they are not even in the position to resolve the ‘old’ MDGs?

2. Would the people below rather see (UN)ESCO money being spend on saving their natural heritage, or on a new home?


  • Luan Galani on 02nd August 2010:

    You really said something (as always!). It is a frequent occurrence to ask myself if all governments and diplomatic bodies face MDG as if they were mere formality. Sometimes, they seems not to think about it. It looks to be very vexing for them. Your questions are super appropriate under the present circumstance. First of all, it is necessary to achieve the basic needs, only then to plunge at new challenges. I believe the responsibilities we have for now are quite enough.

  • Johan Knols on 03rd August 2010:

    Hi Luan,

    A thought that crossed my mind when dealing with this new approach was the following:
    Since the UN sees the donor fatigue amongst countries that committed themselves to the 0,7%, is this Disaster Risk Reduction not a way of making the developing countries themselves not more responsible for the prevention of future disasters?
    The statement of the UNESCO I find downright insulting. As if the victims of Haiti give more about a cathedral than their own lives….

  • Helena Goldon on 04th August 2010:

    Hi Johan,
    It is good to protect national heritage as long as… it is a further stage of development and involves employing local workers around thee cultural sites!
    Very good post and research/the combination of the two articles! Bravo!

  • Johan Knols on 04th August 2010:

    Hi Helena,

    Did you actually understand what I was saying in the post?
    Protecting national heritage is good, but not if you have to live for months on end under a plastic, blue, UN-sheet. This post is about priorities and in my opinion those the UN’s got wrong.

  • Helena Goldon on 04th August 2010:

    Well, this question of yours is not the most polite I have ever come across. Yes, I did understand your post.
    I am afraid you may not have understood the comment which was referring to an article you mentioned IN YOUR POST:;=

    I repeat, I do believe it is important to protect national heritage BUT IN FURTHER STAGES OF HELP not just after the disaster.
    I am same critical, I believe?

  • Johan Knols on 04th August 2010:

    Hi Helena,

    My comment was not meant to be rude. Far from. After your last comment I also understand now how your comment was meant and yes, it does seem that we have the same opinion. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  • Helena Goldon on 04th August 2010:

    smile Same opinion then, Johan. Sorry for misinterpreting your comment. Cheers.

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 05th August 2010:

    Remember the early 2010 earthquake in Chile? It was around 8.5. The one in Haiti was around 7, correct? And yet, Chile had considerably lower numbers of deaths and injuries and financial losses than Haiti. Why? Because it is rich enough to have stronger buildings (it is actually a legal requirement for builders in Chile to take earthquake risk-reduction seriously).

    So it looks like a vicious circle: the poor cannot afford more security and so they suffer more when nature strikes, and therefore cannot recover well enough to achieve that security. But is UN taking its long-loved way of announcing campaigns, setting up targets and then letting someone else to do the job?

  • Johan Knols on 05th August 2010:


    You are hitting the nail on the head. It now seems that developing countries get an extra burden to deal with, despite the total amount of aid money staying to same (or even decreasing).
    I do understand the UN though, but most of the climate change and the consequences it brings, where caused by the CO2 from the developed world. The 0,7% commitment should therefore be raised.

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 05th August 2010:

    Cheers Johan. But if it is raised, let’s imagine, to a 1.5%, would that actually make any difference? Those countries which do not live up to their current 0.7% will not suddenly start doing it, perhaps they’d only become more creative in their excuses?

  • Johan Knols on 05th August 2010:


    You are right. That is why I can not understand this new approach from the UN. At least their attempt to include the Disaster Risk reduction into the MDGs.

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