(Download full report here.)
Following the end of the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai (the very major city struck by the 3/11 Great East Japan Earthquake four years ago) from 14 to 18 March 2015, the Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response (CCOUC), and the Centre for Global Health (CGH) at the Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care (JCSPHPC), The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) held a workshop entitled “Implementation of the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in Asia” on 23 March 2015, which was the first of its kind after the UN Conference and aimed at contributing to a forward-looking and action-oriented implementation strategy specific to Asian context. The workshop officiated by Professor Joseph J.Y. Sung, the Vice-Chancellor and President of CUHK, and Professor Eng-kiong Yeoh, Director of JCSPHPC, was attended by more than 100 academics, government officials and NGO representatives from Hong Kong, Mainland China and the United Kingdom.
“The Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is an incredibly significant agreement which prioritises disaster risk reduction and building resilience within the international community agenda”, said Professor Sung.
Professor Yeoh added that what made this Framework particularly relevant was its strong emphasis on health and reducing the negative health outcomes of disasters.
Dr. Kevin Hung, Director of Hong Kong Jockey Club Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute highlighted that Hong Kong faced a high disaster risk since it was one of the most densely populated urban areas in East Asia, 30 times denser than that in New York.
As Professor Emily Chan, Directors of CCOUC & CGH, pointed out, “Not only the government, not only the academia, but also the NGO sector and the media are important players in the implementation of the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This is the key to turn information and knowledge about disaster risk into actual actions.”
The 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction organized by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) / the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction was to conclude the new “Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction” (now officially known as “Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030”), which had been attended by around 8,000 participants from all UN member states and various international governmental and non-governmental organisations, with several thousand more participating in public events linked to the World Conference (http://www.unisdr.org/we/coordinate/wcdrr). A delegation of five CCOUC members had participated in the meeting and CCOUC Director Professor Emily Chan had delivered two presentations.
The “Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030” is a successor to the “Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015” (HFA) endorsed by the UN General Assembly a decade ago following the 2nd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2005. The HFA is the first plan to explain, describe and detail the work required from all different sectors and actors to reduce disaster losses. It was developed and agreed on with the many partners needed to reduce disaster risk - governments, international agencies, disaster experts and many others - bringing them into a common system of coordination. Its goal is to substantially reduce disaster losses by 2015 by building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters. This means reducing loss of lives and social, economic, and environmental assets when hazards strike. In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly decided to convene the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction to review implementation of the HFA and to adopt a “Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction”.
Renowned speakers from Hong Kong, Mainland China and the United Kingdom shared their insights about the Sendai Framework during the workshop. Details of the keynote presentations held in the morning are as follows:
“The Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction: the Value of Science, Technology and Public Health in the Implementation of the Framework” by Professor Virginia Murray, Vice Chair, UNISDR Scientific and Technical Advisory Group, Consultant in Global Disaster Risk Reduction, Public Health England, the United Kingdom.
Professor Murray pointed out the four priorities for action highlighted in the Sendai framework:
1. Understanding disaster risk;
2. Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk;
3. Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience;
4. Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response, and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
She suggested that China had a strong commitment to improve world understanding in disaster risk, including hosting the International Programme Office of the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) in Beijing. She also praised CCOUC’s working with local communities in rural China in the past few years to enhance disaster preparedness.
“Disaster Risks Associated with Climate Change” by Professor Gabriel Lau, Director, Institute of Environment, Energy and Sustainability (IEES), and AXA Professor of Geography and Resource Management, CUHK, Hong Kong.
Professor Lau highlighted the relevance of increased disaster risk to Hong Kong: As a result of climate change, the frequency of storm surges as high as 3 metres flooding many of the low-lying built-up areas in Pearl Delta will increase from every 20 years to every 5-10 years in the middle of this century and every 3 years toward the end of this century.
“Disaster Public Health Response in China” by Mr. Zhengmao Li, Director, Division of Emergency Response, Health Emergency Response Office, National Health and Family Planning Commission, China.
Mr. Li pointed out that China’s current disaster risk reduction strategies fittingly matched that of the Sendai Framework. For example, the expert health emergency response teams China has been building up to increase disaster preparedness and resilience had been rapidly deployed in the 2013 Lushan Earthquake in Sichuan and the 2014 Ludian Earthquake in Yunnan.
“Introduction for Disease Control and Prevention after the Earthquake Occurrence in Lu Dian County of Yunnan” by Dr. Qiongfen Li, Director, Department for Emergency Response, Yunnan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China.
Dr. Li, echoed Mr. Li’s point regarding China’s capacity building: Yunnan CDC’s public health response teams have managed to deploy self-sufficient mobile stations and laboratories for disease control for the first time in the 2014 Ludian Earthquake to help better contain infectious diseases after the disaster.
“Disaster Health Risk Perceptions and Preparedness in Hong Kong and Mainland China” by Professor Emily Chan, Directors, CCOUC & CGH, JCSPHPC, CUHK, Hong Kong.
Professor Chan said that the workshop meant to start a dialogue among various stakeholders in disaster risk reduction: The challenge is to raise people’s awareness using effective messages and translate knowledge into policies and programmes. For example, CCOUC’s recent study found only 1.2% of the respondents perceived extreme high temperature as an important risk, while climate change has actually made it a major disaster risk. She also highlighted the special risk of Hong Kong being a vertical city with many skyscrapers.
Closed-door roundtable discussion sessions in the afternoon attended by more than 50 participants provided an invaluable platform for government, academia and nongovernmental stakeholders to discuss how everyone could contribute to implementing the Sendai Framework in their respective sectors, particularly the four priorities in action.