What can be done to minimise the damage caused by natural disasters worldwide? This will be the key issue at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan from 15 to 17 March.
The Dutch delegation to Sendai, led by Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen, will contribute to a framework agreement for disaster risk reduction for the next 15 years. In addition, Dutch expertise and experience in the area of disaster prevention will be presented at the conference. Ms Ploumen will also join Princess Margriet on a visit to the tsunami-ravaged area near Sendai.
This gathering is the first of four major UN conferences being held this year to develop the post-2015 development agenda. Member states aim to agree a framework for mitigating the impact of disasters for the next 15 years. Ms Ploumen: ‘Water plays a major role in 70% of disasters worldwide. Flooding and drought claim thousands of victims each year. With its extensive knowledge and experience in water management, the Netherlands can play an important role in preventing disasters.’
In Sendai Ms Ploumen will propose establishing a coalition of low-lying countries to enable nations with river delta problems to join forces and share their experiences and expertise. One of the options is to set up a pool of experts in the area of disaster prevention and mitigation in delta regions. Dutch scientists have assisted in the development of the Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer, an open-data website where relief workers, government agencies and companies can access global flood risk data. Ms Ploumen has invited her fellow ministers to talk about disaster prevention in urban deltas, where the impact of flooding and other natural disasters is even greater.
Princess Margriet to visit tsunami site
On 16 March, Ms Ploumen and Princess Margriet will visit an area near Sendai that sustained extensive damage during the tsunami. The minister and the princess will see how future disasters can be prevented by applying the build-back-better principle. The Dutch delegation includes representatives of Royal HaskoningDHV, Deltares applied research institute and the Red Cross who, as experts in the field, are closely involved in disaster-risk reduction around the world. The schedule also includes a meeting with a women’s organisation dedicated to innovative disaster prevention. The media are welcome to join the delegation on this field trip.
The Netherlands’ priorities for the conference in Sendai are public-private partnerships, prevention, attention for the most vulnerable and accountability. With these concerns in mind, Dutch water envoy Henk Ovink and ambassador for sustainable development Kees Rade have set their sights on greater cooperation between countries, businesses and emergency relief organisations, and more innovative funding for disaster prevention. The delegation also includes representatives from the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, the Ministry of Security and Justice, the business community and knowledge institutes.
The Netherlands has a great deal to offer in disaster prevention. The Disaster Risk Reduction team supports countries all over the world in their efforts to prevent or reduce the impact of water-related disasters. Prominent examples are the Dutch contributions in New York after hurricane Sandy and in New Orleans after Katrina, but the DRR team is also working in Mexico on a master plan for flood prevention. In the Philippines, the team is developing a plan to protect the coastal area near the city of Tacloban and in Serbia they are evaluating the water management system. With the recent launch of the Dutch Surge Support (DSS) team, the Netherlands now has the capability to provide assistance and expertise at every stage of a disaster, including the critical first phase. For instance, they can advise on how to bring people to safety quickly during a flood.