Americas region adopts "historic" Montreal Declaration on reducing disaster risk

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Thousands of buildings including this one in Portoviejo, Ecuador, were destroyed in the April 2016 earthquake. Photo: UNDAC/Manabí

Around 50 countries and territories of the Americas agreed a Regional Action Plan on Thursday to better protect their citizens from the destruction caused by natural and man-made disasters.

The plan, which is the centerpiece of the Montreal Declaration outcome document, marks the end of three days of deliberation and discussion by close to 1,000 government members and officials, NGOs, civil society and others, under the umbrella of the UN-backed Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas.

Matthew Wells reports from Montreal.

The conference supported by the UN disaster risk reduction agency, UNISDR aimed to put into action the principles and priorities agreed by more than 180 Member States across the world in the 2015 Sendai Framework on disaster risk reduction, named after the Japanese city of the same name. 

That enshrined the same priorities outlined by the Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale, who chaired and hosted the Montreal Conference, when he summarized the thrust of Thursday's Regional Action Plan.

He said there were 16 "specific actions" arising, covering four key areas, namely: understanding risk better, improving governance when it comes to dealing with disasters, improving on resilience at all levels regarding risk reduction efforts, and finally, better preparedness.

UNISDR chief Robert Glasser gave UN News more details of the 16-point action plan. 

 "There are things like cooperating on science and technology research, on developing early warning and building back better after disasters, on embedding risk in core economic planning, on building coherence between disaster risk, climate risk and sustainable development more broadly."

Mr Glasser said the Montreal Declaration was an "historic" moment for the Americas and marked the first time that Member States in the region had got together and agreed a collective plan to make the Sendai Framework a reality.

"This is, number one, an issue that effects both less developed and highly developed countries alike. It is an issue that results in huge loss of life each year and that is causing at least US$500 billion a year in economic losses that is all money that could be used to fight poverty, increase access to education or healthcare or promote economic development. So, this is not a hypothetical subject; it is a subject that is a matter of life and death and prosperity."

The Regional Action Plan now goes forward to the Global Platform, taking place in Cancún, Mexico, in May.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2'01"

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