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Lebanon pledges to improve disaster reduction efforts at UNbacked meeting

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During the two-day meeting, which ended today, representatives of more than 80 cities and municipalities discussed the progress made on disaster reduction and the ways new strategies can be implemented.UN Resident Coordinator for Lebanon Robert Watkins, who opened the meeting, said that while significant steps are already being taken by the Government, measures need to be scaled up and “municipal authorities will need to be at the centre of this effort.”Disasters risks in Lebanon are particularly high as the country is vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis as well as to smaller-scale disasters such as floods, forest fires, landslides and drought, making risk reduction and preparedness a priority.“I am aware that solving these and other problems is not simple. It requires cooperation amongst ministries and local authorities, and private actors as well,” said Mr. Watkins, remarking that the country is close to completing a national disaster response plan and establishing a national disaster data loss base.Speaking at the opening of the workshop, UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlström said she hoped the meeting would examine the role disaster reduction can play in reducing poverty, especially in the provision of basic public services.“I understand that in Lebanon, 85-95 per cent of the population live in towns and cities. Middle-sized cities are growing the fastest and I presume that many of you represent such cities where risk is also growing unless basic essentials are addressed such as drainage, public services, land-use and planning,” she told participants.Ms. Wahlström also met with Prime Minister Najib Mikati and discussed ways to make disaster risk reduction a core part of training for the country’s army and civil service. The Lebanese army has traditionally been in charge of disaster response, but the Government is seeking to shift its focus to include earthquake preparedness, early warning systems and search and rescue. 20 October 2011Lebanese mayors and local community leaders at a United Nations-backed meeting in Beirut have pledged to work together to increase disaster reduction measures in the earthquake-prone country. read more

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