Urgent action is needed to address water-related disasters which accounted for 90% of the 1,000 most severe disasters that have occurred since 1990, according to the final outcome document – Making Every Drop Count - of the High Level Panel on Water, issued in March to kick off the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development.
“Tragedies will continue to be repeated if we do not squarely address water and disaster issues at all levels,” said Dr. Han Seung-soo, the founding chair, as he opened the 11th meeting of the High-Level Experts and Leaders’ Panel on Water and Disaster (HELP) at the World Meteorological Organization.
Citing the report, Seung-soo said Special Thematic Sessions on water and disasters should continue to be organized biennially in the UN General Assembly, to raise political awareness.
“Water-related disaster risk reduction financing should be doubled globally with the next five years. Specific targets must be set, as an adequate fixed percentage of national GDP,” he said.
Seung-soo, a former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea and UN Special Envoy on Disaster Risk Reduction and Water, also backed efforts to promote higher education on disaster risk reduction including policy studies, natural science and technology.
WMO Deputy-Secretary General Elena Manaenkova highlighted WMO’s drive towards globally coordinated multi-hazard early warning systems, which factor-in water-related risks, and to improve capacity in developing countries. WMO is working on a formal system of classification of hazards in order to map their impacts, especially given that climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme events.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas was invited to become a member of the high-level panel. Its meeting was held on the eve of WMO’s first ever HydroConference which will address the urgent needs to improve forecasting, management and utization of water resources in an era of growing water stress and hazards like floods.
The UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction Mami Mizutori, said: “Reducing the size of drought vulnerable populations should be a global priority given our knowledge and understanding of the phenomenon and the fact that one billion people have been affected by drought over the last twenty years.”
She remarked that floods which now account for 50% of all weather-related disasters, highlight how disaster risk reduction is both a long-term development issue and a necessary strategy to prevent disasters and save lives in the short to medium term.
Ms. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, former President of Mauritius, urged that disaster risk reduction and prevention be integrated in long-term national planning and that education on disaster risk must be stepped up at all levels particularly given the impact of climate change.
Making Every Drop Count: An Agenda for Water Action was released by a panel of 11 Heads of State and calls for a fundamental shift in the way the world manages water so that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be achieved.