Group of Political Champions due to meet in Haiti to discuss disasters

Apr 19, 2013

Members of the Political Champions Group for Disaster Resilience, including UNDP Administrator Helen Clark (centre), and Justine Greening, UK Secretary of State for International Development (left) visit a community in Haiti as part of a trip meant to direct attention and resources to strengthening the nation's ability to prepare for and recover from disasters such as hurricanes. (Photo: UNDP Haiti)

New York – High-level figures from the United Nations, World Bank, CARICOM, European Union, the UK and US Governments will meet in Port au Prince on Monday to discuss how the international community can support the government in reducing Haiti’s vulnerability to disasters.

They will visit sites around the country and see progress on the UN-supported recovery following the 2010 earthquake, which killed over 220,000 people.

The Political Champions Group for Disaster Resilience – as the ministerial-level alliance is called – is expected to call for stronger leadership from the international community, donors and UN agencies to globally put disaster risk at the heart of development investment and help protect disaster prone countries. Disasters caused by natural hazards have cost the world economy over US$ 2 trillion in the last two decades.

The burden of disasters falls disproportionately on the shoulders of developing countries, says the UN Development Programme. The 1.3 million people killed and the 4.4 billion affected by natural disasters in the past 20 years have come mostly from poor nations. Those living in poverty are far more at risk from natural hazards than those of the developed world; and climate change, it says, combined with population increases and economic growth, is driving a rapid overall rise in global disaster risk.

While more than half of cyclone deaths occur in least developed nations, less than two percent of deaths from cyclones occur in countries with high levels of development. The Champions Group will be mindful of this fact in light of the fast approaching hurricane season. Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Caribbean in 2012 had a devastating impact on Haiti, killing 54 people there, with total Haitian deaths from hurricanes reaching 80 in 2012. However, international partners have supported the government in reducing vulnerability, improving early warning systems and evacuation procedures. Haitian hurricane fatalities in 2012 were just over three percent of what they were in 2004.

The Political Champions are expected to commit to increasing their support, and will help the government build resilience to such hazards in the future. They will implore the engagement of universities and civil society and promote investment in local private sector networks and associations in order to build disaster resilience. A meeting between the group, Haitian President Martelly, Ministers and civil society leaders is expected to take place on Monday.

Haiti is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world and the poorest nation in the Americas. It has a long history of destructive earthquakes, hurricanes, conflicts and epidemics. The value of humanitarian assistance to the country since 2001 has exceeded US $4 billion.

Expected to attend are:
•  Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and Co-Chair of the Political Champion Group
•  Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs  and UN Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, OCHA
•  Justine Greening, UK Secretary of State for International Development and Co-chair of the Political Champions Group
•  Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM);
•  Jean-Louis de Brouwer, Director of Operations in the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department
•  Rachel Kyte, Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank

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