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?