Press Releases

4 October 2005

Secretary-General, in International Day Message, Calls for Investment in Poverty Reduction, Disaster Prevention, after Year of Profound Lessons

NEW YORK, 3 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message on the International Day for Disaster Reduction, to be observed on 12 October:

The past year has reminded people everywhere that no place in the world is immune from natural disaster. From the massive Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami to the drought- and locust-ravaged countries of Africa, from the devastation caused by hurricanes and cyclones in the United States, the Caribbean and the Pacific to heavy flooding across Europe and Asia, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives, and millions their livelihoods, to natural disasters.

The lesson we must draw is encapsulated in the theme of this year's International Day for Disaster Reduction:  "Invest to prevent disaster".  We cannot stop natural calamities, but we can and must better equip individuals and communities to withstand them.  Those most vulnerable to nature's wrath are usually the poorest, which means that when we reduce poverty, we also reduce vulnerability.

In this International Year of Microcredit, we should recognize that microfinance can do much to help empower those with little or no access to traditional financial institutions, thereby reducing disaster risk and improving disaster management.  By diversifying the income of high-risk populations and promoting disaster insurance, microfinance can strengthen coping mechanisms before disasters, while hastening recovery afterwards.

These are the type of innovative approaches called for in the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, adopted at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in January, and reaffirmed in September at the World Summit at United Nations Headquarters in New York.  On this International Day, after a year in which we should all have learned profound lessons, I call on Governments at all levels, international organizations, civil society groups, and the private sector to implement this framework and invest in poverty reduction and disaster prevention, in order to build resilient communities and save lives.

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