New York (UN/epo). - The United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction - a long-planned event which gained added importance in the wake of the recent Indian Ocean tsunami - has concluded in Kobe, Japan, with countries pledging to reduce the risks facing millions of people who are exposed to natural calamities.

At the final session on Saturday, 168 delegations adopted the "Hyogo Framework for Action: 2005 - 2015," which calls for putting disaster risk at the center of national policies, strengthening the capacity of disaster-prone countries to address risk, and investing heavily in disaster preparedness.

"This new plan will help reduce the gap between what we know and what we do; the critical ingredient is political commitment," said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, who has been deeply involved in the tsunami relief effort.

Taking place less than one month after that catastrophic event claimed up to 230,000 lives, the conference heard numerous voices from around the globe pledging to foster protection against future calamities.

Speaking at the closing meeting, the President of the Conference, Yoshitaka Murata, said "these five days spent in Kobe will make a real difference in the way we look at hazards, at risks and vulnerability, and that we all truly engage on the road for a safer world."

The conference also adopted a declaration recommending that a "culture of disaster prevention and resilience" must be fostered and recognizing the relationship between disaster reduction, sustainable development and poverty reduction.

While hailing the progress achieved in Kobe, Mr. Egeland cautioned that success is "contingent on partnerships on working together to meet this global challenge."

At the meeting, an International Early Warning Programme was launched to improve resilience to all types of natural hazards including droughts, wildland fires, floods, typhoons, hurricanes, landslides, volcanic eruption and tsunamis. This U
of people-centered early warning systems and community education about disaster preparedness.

In response to last month's tsunami disaster, the World Conference held a special session where delegates pledged their support to create a regional tsunami early warning system in the Indian Ocean. The new warning system will draw from the experience of the Pacific Ocean tsunami early warning systems making use of the existing coordination mechanism of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Also launched during the Conference were an international flood initiative, an alliance to support earthquake risk reduction and the earthquake megacities initiative, all geared to helping countries and communities cope with disasters.

"The world may not be a safer place next week but that is when we will have to start working together to ensure that commitments made at this event become a reality," said Mr. Egeland.

 United Nations


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