News / Asia

UN Official Calls on Asia-Pacific Region to Reduce Disaster Risks

Noeleen Heyzer (file photo)Noeleen Heyzer (file photo)
x
Noeleen Heyzer (file photo)
Noeleen Heyzer (file photo)
Ron Corben
A regional economic meeting in Bangkok this week is focusing on helping Asia's economies become more resilient to natural disasters and financial shocks.  A senior U.N. official warns weak accountability and poor governance are undermining such efforts.

U.N. Under Secretary General Noeleen Heyzer says more accountability is needed, given growing threats from natural disasters and the impact of human-caused crises in the Asia Pacific region.

According to U.N. reports, the Asia-Pacific remains the most disaster-prone region - with about 2.5-million people affected and nearly 800,000 lives lost during the past decade.  The region was also shaken by the financial crisis of the late 1990s that left millions in poverty, and more recently affected by debt issues in Europe and the United States.

Heyzer says there are a number of policy changes that can be used to reduce disaster risk, but greater accountability needs to be addressed.

"Strengthening building codes is one, looking at land use, where are you locating communities, how are you allowing organizations to actually grow and so on," said Heyzer.  "At the same time, if you are looking at the financial crisis, it is time to really ask for greater accountability at the global-financial-system level and to prevent the type of speculation - more accountability."

Heyzer said last week's garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, which claimed more 350 lives, highlights the need for accountability.

"The Bangladesh collapse; there was early warning there were cracks; but there is no point having early warning when there is no early action," said Heyzer.  "So this is the thing about accountability.  The workers see the cracks in the building, they complain, who takes this up?  That is where the accountable government comes in."

Heyzer heads the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.  She voiced her concerns as UNESCAP economists released a report on building resilience into policy as a way to better prepare for natural disasters and other crises in the region.

UNESCAP Trade Section chief Shamika Sirimanne says overlapping and increasingly large-scale shocks, ranging from natural to man-made, remain a threat as development increases competition for natural resources, including water and land.

She says given the uncertainties, governments need to boost social protection, especially for the poor and vulnerable.

"Everything affects the same group of people," said Sirimanne.  "Itis the poor, the poorest of the poor, living below $2 a day, they are also affected.  So we want government to be aware of that.  We want governments to take every action at the macro-economic level.  They need to keep that in mind, addressing shock, but my main purpose should be avoiding this shock."

Sirimanne says there is a need to ensure that disaster risk reduction is a priority, given the impact of increasingly severe weather patterns due to climate change.

Disaster mitigation and development will be key concerns at this week's meeting of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.  Ministers and senior officials from more than 60 member nations will be involved.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid