Disaster Risk Reduction: Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter to take part in UN World Conference in Sendai

Bern, 09.03.2015 - The Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) will take place from 14 to 18 March in Sendai, Japan. Didier Burkhalter will lead the Swiss delegation during the ministerial segment of the conference, representing Switzerland's position. Following this, the Swiss delegation, including representatives of Swiss Humanitarian Aid, the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Federal Office for Civil Protection (FOCP), will continue negotiations on a new Framework for Action. On March 15 Federal Councillor Burkhalter will travel to Indonesia and subsequently to Sri Lanka for political discussions.

Population growth, climate change and other global trends are causing the frequency and impact of disasters and emergencies to increase. As a result, prevention and precaution efforts – known as disaster risk reduction – have gained in importance, with the aim of reducing the severity of disasters and managing them more efficiently.

State representatives, representatives from non-governmental organisations, from the scientific community and the private sector will be taking part in the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Management in Sendai, Japan – in a region that experienced a devastating disaster first-hand: the 2011 tsunami and its aftermath. The aim of the conference is to adopt a new Framework for Action, establishing the strategic goals and priority areas for disaster-risk reduction in the coming years. The new Framework for Action will replace the current Framework for Action from 2005.

Switzerland has much expertise and many years of experience in dealing with disasters. The Federal Office for Civil Protection (FOCP) and the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) (prevention of natural disasters) are responsible at the federal level for risk analyses, measures to be taken and the coordination of all stakeholders involved in the prevention and management of disasters in Switzerland. Abroad, responsibility lies with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), which focuses primarily on the poorest population groups, which are often the most affected by disasters.

It is therefore fitting that the Swiss delegation to Sendai should also include high-ranking officials from these three federal institutions, such as Manuel Bessler, the Federal Council Delegate for Humanitarian Aid, Josef Hess, Vice-Director of the FOEN, and Benno Bühlmann, Director of the FOCP. In Geneva, Switzerland hosted the preparatory process for the Sendai conference and campaigned for the reinforcement of an integrated DRR approach in the creation of the new framework document. This approach involves a comprehensive view of the hazards concerned, the inclusion of the relevant and affected stakeholders and also an integrated planning of measures for disaster risk reduction.

During the ministerial segment of the conference on 14 March, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, Head of the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs (FDFA), will present Switzerland's position with regard to the new Framework of Action for disaster risk reduction.

Political discussions in Indonesia and Sri Lanka

On 15 March, Mr Burkhalter will travel from Sendai to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, where he will meet Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, amongst others, and be received by the ASEAN Secretariat. On 17 March, Mr Burkhalter will hold political discussions in Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital, with amongst others, the Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, as well as representatives of the Tamil National Alliance. In Jaffna, in the north of Sri Lanka, he will also visit a village that received SDC support in the context of its humanitarian reconstruction programme after the 2004 tsunami and after the end of the armed conflict. During the reconstruction, great value was placed on risk-resistant construction methods.


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