Wednesday, December 1, 2010

[pima.nius] Pacific islands very vulnerable to natural disasters

10:56 AM |

Pacific islands very vulnerable to natural disasters

Updated December 1, 2010 17:40:58

U-N disaster risk reduction experts say Pacific Island states are hugely vulnerable to disasters, especially related to climate change, but despite high awareness, they continue to lack resources to reduce the risks.

They also say that ultimately, even the best disaster risk reduction efforts won't save them unless the international community acts together to halt climate change.

Two of the U-N top officials working in the area were in Canberra, on their way to the international climate talks in Cancun.

Presenter: Canberra Correspondent, Linda Mottram
Speakers: Margareta Wahlstrom, UN secretary general's special representative on disaster risk reduction; Suva-based Angelika Planitz, Pacific co-ordinator on the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction


MOTTRAM: Two years ago the UN Secretary General appointed long-time disaster risk management expert Margareta Wahlstrom as his special representative on the issue. And while reducing the risk of disaster is a generally pressing issue, its moreso as the world confronts what scientists say is human induced climate change that will be of calamitous proportions if global action isn't taken.

Margareta Wahlstrom says disaster risk reduction has always mattered, but is more important now than ever.

WAHLSTROM: The economic cost ..... will tolerate.

MOTTRAM: She cites water shortages and pressure on critical infrastructure especially as more and more of the world's population is urbanised.

WAHLSTROM: What you see happening ... reduction is.

MOTTRAM: Margareta Wahlstrom says there has been growing awareness of the issues as officials and developers have thought through the costs .. including political costs .. of not being prepared. But its the Pacific where the harshest reality of being unable to prepare is most real.

WAHLSTROM: If you're looking at the world in total ...

MOTTRAM: Australia, she says, has been a strong partner in the Pacific helping to improve disaster preparedness. And the Pacific has long been aware of the need. But Suva-based Angelika Planitz, who's the Pacific co-ordinator on the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, paints a vivid picture of the constraints Pacific island nations face.

PLANITZ: The government focal points .... still in their hands.

MOTTRAM: Angelika Planitz says there has been progress coming up with strategies, and she says Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Samoa are among the most advanced. She says finding inspired individuals to be able to reach out across agencies and communities has helped in those places. But building long term capabilities across the sparsely populated geography of the Pacific is proving difficult.

And in the end, as she prepares to travel to Cancun in Mexico for the UN climate summit, Margareta Wahlstrom says the Pacific simply cannot solve some of the problems it's facing.

WAHLSTROM: It requires a change of climate policies globally to really help them and involve them in the solutions.

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