News / Asia

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

Noeleen Heyzer (file photo)Noeleen Heyzer (file photo)
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

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs