Da Asahi Shimbun del 24/01/2005
Originale su http://www.asahi.com/english/nation/TKY200501240150.html

Hyogo plan inadequate, poor nations say

di Taro Karasaki, Makoto Ushida

KOBE - An international disaster conference ended over the weekend with participants agreeing on the need to help strengthen developing countries' ability to deal with disasters, but some critics were already questioning the action plan adopted.

Not only does the broadly worded document lack achievable numerical targets, but it also largely ignores the input of developing nations, they say.

``The conference has tended to be about what ideas developed countries had and could do for the affected (tsunami) region,'' said a delegate from India. The delegate said that it was important for the affected nations to take a central role, and that ``existing systems in those countries be utilized.''

The five-day conference convened with more than 4,000 participants from 168 nations. Held on the heels of the Dec. 26 tsunami disaster that killed more than 225,000, the focus of the conference shifted to tsunami warning systems and away from the specialized disaster concerns of smaller nations.

``The international community should not forget what we were trying to say in this conference,'' said a Senegalese delegate, trying to bring some attention to his nation's problem with drought.

The group of Small Island Developing States also pushed hard in the last two days to put the issue of climate change into the final documents.

``There was no real discussion on the impact of disasters (due to) climate change and the sea-level rise,'' said Gerald Zakios, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. ``Small island states are the most vulnerable.''

The conference document, the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, mostly stresses the need to allocate finances for disaster reduction, to establish early tsunami warning systems and to raise public awareness for lowering disaster risks.

``We're in the middle of a process and a conclusion is not ready yet. This is just the first step,'' said Salvano Briceno, director of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, which organized the conference.

During the meeting, big players from the developed world-including Japan, the United States, Germany and France-pushed their ideas for a tsunami warning system.

This did not sit well with some groups from the countries hard-hit by the tsunami. They felt their voices were not being heard when they suggested upgrading systems they already had for warning systems.

Some also were concerned about the donor community overzealously allocating money just to court international favor.

``There needs to be a change in mentality on the part of developed countries, too-from emergency relief to developing disaster reduction,'' said Vinod Sharma, head of the Nepal-based Program for Enhancement of Emergency Response, an NGO that trains disaster workers. ``Ninety percent of funding is for relief while only 10 percent goes to preparedness; it should be the other way around.''

Many raised concern that the perspective of the developing countries was not being made known because their media were not at the conference.

``Where are the developing countries?'' asked Don Nanjira, originally from Africa and a former World Meteorological Organization representative, surveying the reporters on hand. ``They are the ones who are affected the most by what is being discussed here, and yet they are not here.''

Further, he added: ``You need to mobilize people, make them realize the importance of the issue. Otherwise, it will mean nothing to have an early warning system.''

Of the 15 countries with media covering the conference, most reporters came from industrialized economies. And from countries physically devastated by the tsunami, only Thai reporters came to cover the conference, according to the list from the U.N. media secretariat.

The Kobe conference was the United Nations' second world conference focusing on disaster issues. The first took place in 1994 in Yokohama.

According to U.N. figures based on data from the University of Louvain in Belgium, from 1994 to 2003, 478,100 people were killed and more than 2.5 billion people were affected by natural disasters.

More than 95 percent of the people who died lived in low- and mid-income countries. And more than half of the casualties and more than 90 percent of the affected people lived in Asia.

Thirty percent were killed by earthquakes and tsunami, 30 percent by floods and waves, 19 percent by storms and 18 percent by drought.

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