The Year of Resilience

Ten years ago this month, representatives from 168 United Nations member states met in Kobe, the capital of Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, to decide how to respond to the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, which claimed more than 227,000 lives. Now it is time for world leaders to strengthen measures aimed at mitigating disaster risk.

NEW YORK – Ten years ago this month, representatives from 168 United Nations member states met in Kobe, the capital of Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, to decide how to manage risk better in the wake of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, which claimed more than 227,000 lives. Over five days, which included the anniversary of the 1995 Kobe earthquake, they crafted the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), composed of a raft of measures designed to “reduce the losses in lives and social, economic, and environmental assets of communities and countries.”

In two months, UN member states will gather for the third World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in another Japanese city synonymous with disaster risk: Sendai – the center of the Tōhoku region, which bore the brunt of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. One question will be on everyone’s mind at the meeting: Has the world lived up to the HFA’s ambitious goals?

The evidence of the last decade – which has been marked by some of the worst natural disasters on record – is far from favorable. Port-au-Prince collapsed in an earthquake. Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Drought killed an unknown number of people in the Horn of Africa. Floods and earthquakes affected millions in Pakistan and China. Heat waves and wildfires ravaged countries around the world.

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