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May 22, 2013


A common sense approach

Unfortunately this common-sense message is only getting through slowly to the international aid community. In 2010 the world spent 23 times as much on emergency relief for the ten developing countries hit hardest by disasters as it spent on disaster prevention and preparedness. Disaster risk reduction is still the poor relation when it comes to allocating aid budgets.

From the margins to the mainstream

Those attending this week’s major DRR conference in Geneva are determined to turn DRR from a marginal idea into a mainstream concern. There are 3,000 of us here, from over 100 different countries – so many that quite a few missed the opening session because they could not all get through security clearance and registration in time.

My first day at the conference, where I am representing Islamic Relief as part of the Government of Bangladesh delegation, was taken up with a lot of different meetings. There were wide-ranging discussions on topics such as the economics of DRR, getting the private sector involved and how the Hyogo Framework Agreement on DRR of 2005 should be strengthened when it expires. I also got to play with Tangible Earth – the world’s first interactive digital globe (pictured).

An idea gaining momentum here, and one that the Bangladesh delegation certainly supports, is making progress on DRR a key indicator in the new framework of global development targets that will replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. If DRR makes it into the new framework as a prominent stand-alone goal, it will be much more difficult to ignore.

Energised by tragedy

One of those who addressed the conference on the opening day was Munir Chowdhry, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief in Bangladesh. He said he was encouraged by the progress achieved in international climate change negotiations, and also that the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka had “energised us to redouble our efforts to reduce urban disaster risks”.

The Joint Secretary shared some of the extensive measures Bangladesh is taking in disaster risk reduction. These include training over 100,000 volunteers in disaster preparedness and response and building knowledge of DRR best practice into the education programmes of 42 universities and public training institutions.

Islamic Relief is playing a leading role in developing national DRR policy in Bangladesh, but our main focus will always be on practical DRR projects in some of the most vulnerable villages in the country. In Gaibanda district, for example, we have helped over 180 vulnerable families to raise the level of their houses to protect them against flooding – ensuring they were protected when the area was hit by its worst floods for 24 years in 2012.

If you donated to Islamic Relief’s UK Ramadan appeal last year then you have contributed to this life-saving work. DRR projects in Bangladesh and four other countries are the main beneficiaries of that appeal, boosted by a one-off donation of £5 million from the British Government under its UK Aid Match scheme. Thank you for your support.

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