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UN celebrates disaster preparedness of Australian capital city

The capital of Australia has been recognized as one of a group of global cities serving as role models in disaster risk management, the United Nations office tasked with disaster risk reduction announced today.

Due to its exposure to natural hazards such as flash floods, bush fires, severe thunderstorms and snowfalls, the city of Canberra developed the Strategic Bushfire Management Plan – an extensive organization and coordination mechanism to mitigate the city’s risk from calamities.

Speaking at the Sixth Session of the World Urban Forum, held in Naples, Italy, the head of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), Margareta Wahlström, praised Canberra’s disaster risk reduction efforts and welcomed the city as an official Role Model for the ‘Making Cities Resilient Campaign’ – a UN-sponsored initiative which aims to reduce urban risks from climate-related disasters.

A series of devastating bushfires in January 2003 prompted the Australian Capital Territory – in which the city of Canberra is located – to initiate the Strategic Bushfire Management Plan, which includes community education and awareness, construction and upgrading of water points, helicopter landing pads, fuel breaks, infrastructure to facilitate grazing and prescribed burning for fuel management.

The initiative also established over 50 Community Fire Units in high bushfire risk areas providing residents with training, equipment and support.

“Canberra has shown us how important organizational capacity is when it comes to building resilience against a wide range of natural hazards in the most disaster-prone region of the world,” Ms. Wahlström said, adding that the ‘Making Cities Resilient Campaign’ now boasted over 1,000 members worldwide.

There are currently 25 partners working with UNISDR to support the campaign, which seeks to give cities a forum to share their experiences and expertise, especially given that risks are on the upswing due to increases in weather-related disasters.

One partner, the Local Governments for Sustainability, counts a global membership of over 1,200 cities, towns, counties, and their associations.

The World Urban Forum was established by the UN to examine one of the most pressing problems facing the world today: rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies.

Held every two years, the Forum brings together a wide range of participants from around the world to discuss key urban challenges. The main theme of the Sixth Forum, in Naples, is ‘The Urban Future.’

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42798&Cr=Disaster+Risk&Cr1=

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UN official calls for policies to address rapid urbanization in developing countries

A United Nations official today called for the development of national urban policies to ensure developing countries are not overwhelmed by urbanization, which he compared to a tsunami for its staggering growth which can surpass cities’ capacities to manage it.

“What we are seeing now is a huge process of urbanization in the south which goes hand in hand with development. You cannot have one without the other. The problem is that the institutional architecture cannot keep pace with urbanization,” said the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Joan Clos at the opening of the 6th World Urban Forum in Naples, Italy.

“If there is no proper anticipation urbanization becomes a mess and if you try to correct the problem afterwards it costs a lot to fix. Countries are overwhelmed by urbanization. It’s like a tsunami. Urbanization goes faster than the capacity to manage it,” Mr. Clos said. “We need to re-design our cities to face these challenges.”

Mr. Clos stressed the importance of urban planning at national, state, and local levels to avoid informal settlements and slums, as well as high concentrations of people in mega capitals.

He stated that planning policies would help countries provide their citizens with jobs and prosperity while still tackling environmental challenges.

The World Urban Forum was established by the United Nations to examine one of the most pressing problems facing the world today: rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies.

Organized jointly by UN-Habitat, the Government of Italy, the Campania Region and the city of Naples, the theme for this year’s meeting, which will be attended by more than 3,000 participants, is The Urban Future.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42795&Cr=urban&Cr1=

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United Nations climate fund inaugurates first meeting

A United Nations fund aimed at mobilizing resources to help developing countries mitigate the impact of global warming has kicked-off its first official meeting, it was announced today.

Established by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) during the 2011 UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was created to help developing nations protect themselves from climate impacts and build their own sustainable futures.

However, the GCF could not meet officially until it had filled all 24 seats on its Board, which effectively governs and supervises all aspects of the Fund.

According to a press release confirming the inaugural session, the GCF will now set about satisfying its mandate, which includes providing developing countries with simplified and improved access to climate change funding, as well as providing them support to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The Board inaugurated its first gathering by electing Mr. Zaheer Fakir of South Africa and Mr. Ewen McDonald of Australia as its Co-Chairs for a one-year term. Mr. Fakir is the Head of International Relations and Governance of the Department of Environmental Affairs of South Africa, while Mr. McDonald is the Deputy Director General of the Australian Agency for International Development, and both boast numerous years of experience in development and climate change-related issues.

Meanwhile, six countries – Germany, Mexico, Namibia, Poland, Republic of Korea, and Switzerland – are vying to host the Fund.

The GCF’s meeting will conclude on Saturday, 25 August.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42732&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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