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Dr Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement on International Day for Disaster Reduction on 13 October:
Far too often, extreme natural events cause terrible suffering and severe humanitarian emergencies. In the past 20 years, the number of natural disasters worldwide has more than doubled from around 200 to over 400 per year. The recent earthquake and severe tsunami in Indonesia are just one example of the devastating impact and humanitarian emergencies following such disasters.
Although we cannot prevent extreme natural events, we can ease the humanitarian impact on the people affected and help them to prepare better for such eventualities. By improving prevention measures and people’s resilience in high-risk areas, we can save lives and reduce suffering. The Federal Government plays a part in this by promoting the development of innovative, far-sighted approaches to disaster reduction.
Natural disasters do not stop at national borders, and they can affect any country in the world. This means that disaster risk reduction is a task for the entire international community. We thus need to improve how we coordinate and pool our efforts to reduce disaster risk and to promote international cooperation. We must keep up our efforts, as the better disaster risk reduction is, the more lives we can save and the more suffering we can prevent.
In 1989, the United Nations declared 13 October International Day for Disaster Reduction. The idea behind this day is to encourage all members of the public and governments to play a part in making communities and nations more resilient to disasters. The Federal Foreign Office has been active in the field of disaster risk reduction since 1981.
Seventy-five percent of natural disasters are now caused by extreme weather events. Accordingly, the Federal Foreign Office, working closely with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), has developed an innovative package of measures in 2014 aimed at improving preparedness for increasing extreme weather risks.
Forecast-based financing forms an important element of this package of measures. Funding for humanitarian assistance is provided on the basis of detailed extreme weather forecasts and risk analysis if certain thresholds are reached, that is, before the extreme weather event occurs. The aim of the forecast-based financing approach is to predict impending extreme weather disasters more accurately and, if possible, to reduce their impact and prevent suffering. The Federal Foreign Office will continue working to further innovative approaches to disaster reduction worldwide.