AU Chair rallies globe to avert disasters

Nduduzo Tshuma in Sendai, Japan

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IN this picture collage, African Union chairperson President Mugabe meets Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Swaziland monarch King Mswati III in Sendai, Japan where he is attending the Third UN Conference on Disaster Reduction — Pictures: Presidential Photographer Joseph Nyadzayo

IN this picture collage, African Union chairperson President Mugabe meets Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Swaziland monarch King Mswati III in Sendai, Japan where he is attending the Third UN Conference on Disaster Reduction — Pictures: Presidential Photographer Joseph Nyadzayo

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President Mugabe yesterday urged United Nations member states to find sustainable solutions to climate change, which continues to account for debilitating droughts and floods.

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The African Union and Sadc Chair said focus should centre on key areas such as mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology transfer and capacity building.

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Addressing the Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction here, he said violent conflict should also be accorded due attention as it caused mass population displacement, infrastructure destruction and economic degradation.

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“In my country, and I speak as current Chairperson of the African Union, droughts occurred generally once every 10 years. They now occur almost every five years. Other Southern African countries are also suffering the impact of more frequent hydro-meteorological disasters in the form of both droughts and torrential flooding.

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“The same trend in respect of similar disasters caused by natural phenomenon can be observed elsewhere on the African continent and indeed across the globe.”

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President Mugabe noted the marked increase in the frequency and severity of such disasters.

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This, he said, suggested that while countries sought to reduce risks, greater focus should be on the nexus between natural disasters and climate change.

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“We have that opportunity here on Sendai, but also in the ongoing negotiations in preparation for the 21st Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Paris in December this year.”

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The President said since the Hygo Framework for Action was adopted in 2005, tangible progress has been made in addressing disasters and improving resilience.

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“Many countries have adopted national disaster policies and strategies, have made budgetary provisions for disaster risk reduction, have formulated early warning systems and have extended school programmes to include disaster education.

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“Regrettably, such progress is not universal, particularly in Africa, where our countries require international co-operation and support to improve and strengthen our capacities to develop these policies and strategies.

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“We welcome, therefore, the efforts made to ensure that the successor to the Hygo Framework for Action builds on its successes, but also addresses the weaknesses and gaps identified over this past decade.”

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President Mugabe said the agreement on seven global targets and indicators would enable individual assessment and collective action in implementing the priorities of the Post-2015 Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction.

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The President added that interfacing ensured coherence and more effective alignment of policies, and would enable nations to further reinforce fundamental pillars of international co-operation “such as the principle of common but differentiated responsibility between developed and developing countries”.

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He cautioned that international co-operation and solidarity that did not recognise this and other fundamental principles — or that sought to dilute them — would be unrealistic, unfair and insincere. President Mugabe said gender sensitivity was essential in disaster risk management as women and girls were often disproportionately affected by disasters.

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He said Japan’s experience in disaster risk reduction, management and recovery held important lessons for all nations.

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At the conference opening, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged US$4 billion to support implementation of the Sendai Co-operation Initiative for Disaster Risk Reduction over the next four years.

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The fund will focus on developing disaster-proof infrastructure and training 40 000 people in national disaster risk reduction and post-disaster initiatives.

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French foreign minister Laurent Fubius called for the creation of a worldwide early warning system for climate disaster.

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He said 70 percent of disasters were linked to climate change, double the number 20 years ago.

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Mr Fubius said the objective was to provide vulnerable countries and regions with realtime weather and climate updates, information communication technology and to support a short message service-based alert system.

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President Mugabe is accompanied by ministers Ignatius Chombo (Local Government, Public Works and National Housing), David Parirenyatwa (Health and Child Care), Simbarashe Mumbengegwi (Foreign Affairs) and Saviour Kasukuwere (Environment, Water and Climate).

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