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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid