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Message from Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, on the
occasion of International Disaster Reduction Day, 12 October 2005
Natural disasters are increasing in terms of frequency, complexity, scope and
destructive capacity. They recently have struck developing and developed countries
alike, causing death, suffering, destruction and damage on a massive scale. Over the
last ten months, the world has experienced several large-scale natural disasters Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita; the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami;
floods and forest fires in Europe, India and China; and drought in Africa. Images of
these events have shocked us all and will remain with us for a long time.
Through these and other natural disasters, thousands of people have lost their lives
and many more are still deeply traumatized by phenomena they could scarcely
understand or defend themselves against. National authorities and the international
community, of course, should continue to provide the practical support needed by
the affected communities. At the same time, it is important to quickly learn
appropriate lessons that may help individuals, families, communities and whole
societies to be better prepared for other disasters, whether caused by natural forces
or otherwise.
We must promote a culture of disaster reduction, laying emphasis on pre-disaster
action rather than contenting ourselves with post-disaster reaction. The wisdom of
hindsight comes too late; the wisdom of foresight can save thousands of lives.
International Disaster Reduction Day is an opportunity for reflection and renewal. We
must reflect upon past tragedies and achievements and, at the same time, we must
renew our commitment to building a safer world in the future. We must promote a
better understanding of natural disasters: where they might occur, when they might
occur and what their intensity may be. We must improve early warning systems and
utilize communication technologies more effectively for the dissemination of alerts
about impending disasters. We must be ever more vigilant about the protection of
land, natural resources and cultural heritage. We must mobilize scientific knowledge
and technological know-how to strengthen disaster mitigation measures. We must
promote and enforce sound engineering and construction principles. And we must
promote education and public awareness about natural disaster reduction.
UNESCO is committed to participate actively in the implementation of the Hyogo
Framework for Action 2005-2015, which was adopted at the World Conference on
Disaster Reduction held in Kobe, Japan, in January 2005. The building of disaster
resilience is accorded strong emphasis in the Hyogo Framework and UNESCO intends
to make this a priority area in the period ahead through its scientific, engineering,
educational and cultural programmes. UNESCO will seek to help vulnerable
communities become more aware of the dangers they face and more capable of
effective disaster reduction.
On International Disaster Reduction Day 2005, I call for redoubled efforts to build a
culture of disaster reduction in all countries.