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Heritance Ahungalla, Sri Lanka 17th – 19th September 2013

Sri Lanka welcomed 142 local and international delegates for a major international conference on building resilience to disasters

Download the Press Release.

Download the Delegate List (This does not include attendees at the Southern Provincial Council workshop).

Download the message to the Conference workshop for local government officials from Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) of the United Nations for Disaster Risk Reduction Message from Margareta Wahlström.

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Heritance Ahungalla, near the Southern city of Galle, Sri Lanka, was the setting for a major international conference on the development of societal resilience to disasters. The 3rd International Conference on Building Resilience welcomed 142 delegates, including 87 academics, practitioners, professionals and policy makers, and 55 technical officers from the Southern Provincial Council. Alongside local delegates, the conference attracted 40 leading scientists from Europe, Asia, North America and Australasia. The conference also incorporated the National Launch of the United Nations Global Assessment Report and a Capacity Building Workshop for the Sri Lankan Southern Provincial Council. 

The conference programme featured five keynote addresses by distinguished practitioners and academics: Professor Martin Hall, Vice Chancellor, University of Salford, UK; Vinod Thomas, Director General of Independent Evaluation, Asian Development Bank; Professor Sarath Abayakoon, Former Vice Chancellor, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka; Dan Lewis, Chief of Urban Risk Reduction, UN-Habitat, Kenya; Dr Samantha Hettierachichi, Professor of Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka and Chairman, Working Group on Risk Assessment, UNESCO/IOC/ICG/IOTWS; and, N.M.S.I. Arambepola, Deputy Executive Director, Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC), Bangkok, Thailand. These keynote addresses provided a local and global perspective and vision for disaster resilience research and practice.

This event built upon the successful 2011 International Conference on Building Resilience, which was held in Dambulla, Sri Lanka. The 2011 Conference was held in association with the launch of the United Nations Making Cities Resilient: 'My City is getting ready!' campaign, which addresses issues of local governance and urban risk. The 2013 Conference further supported the campaign focus areas up to 2015, including city-to-city learning and capacity building, and an emphasis on partnerships.

The conference encouraged debate on individual, institutional and societal coping strategies to address the challenges associated with disaster risk. As a country subject to several large-scale disasters in recent years, including the 2004 Tsunami and a civil war spanning several decades, Sri Lanka provided an ideal setting to explore the challenge of creating resilient communities and cities.

The conference programme incorporated keynote addresses by respected government officials, leading industrialists and implementers, and distinguished local and international academics.

Mrs Marina Mohamed, Secretary at the Ministry of Disaster Management Sri Lanka, and Hemanthi Goonasekera, Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of Sri Lankan Local Government Authorities welcomed delegates and provided an important policy context for the subsequent debate, highlighting national and local priorities and action plans. They also established an expectation that the conference will serve as an impetus for further action in helping Sri Lanka to tackle the challenge of disaster risk.

The conference programme featured five keynote addresses by distinguished practitioners and academics: Professor Martin Hall, Vice Chancellor, University of Salford, UK; Vinod Thomas, Director General of Independent Evaluation, Asian Development Bank; Professor Sarath Abayakoon, Former Vice Chancellor, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka; Dan Lewis, Chief of Urban Risk Reduction, UN-Habitat, Kenya; Dr Samantha Hettierachichi, Professor of Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka and Chairman, Working Group on Risk Assessment, UNESCO/IOC/ICG/IOTWS; and, N.M.S.I. Arambepola, Deputy Executive Director, Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC), Bangkok, Thailand. These keynote addresses provided a local and global perspective and vision for disaster resilience research and practice.

The conference included the publication and presentation of 87 research articles and practice notes that had been subject to double blind peer review by a distinguished international scientific committee. All accepted papers were published in the conference proceedings. Selected papers will also be published in a special issue of the International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, by Emerald Publishing.

The conference was organised by the Centre for Disaster Resilience, School of the Built Environment, University of Salford, UK, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University, Australia and Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia, in conjunction with local hosts the University of Colombo, the University of Moratuwa, and the University of Peradeniya. The conference was also held in association with the ANDROID Disaster Resilience Network, a major EU funded global network of 67 organisations across 31 countries that promotes collaboration among Higher Education Institutes to address disaster risk (www.disaster-resilience.net). The Conference was chaired by Professors Martin Hall, Dilanthi Amaratunga and Richard Haigh, from the University of Salford, UK. Further details on the conference can be found at www.buildresilience.org/2013.

The conference outcomes are being used to support the United Nations World Disaster Reduction campaign ‘Making Cities Resilient’, which addresses issues of local governance and urban risk while drawing upon previous ISDR Campaigns on safer schools and hospitals, as well as on the sustainable urbanisations principles developed in the UN-Habitat World Urban campaign 2009-2013.

 

National launch of the United Nations Global Assessment Report

The conference also included the national launch of the latest in the series of bi-annual Global Assessment Reports (GAR) www.preventionweb.net/english/hyogo/gar/2013/en/home/download.html. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, in its third and the latest edition, emphasises the importance of the business case for disaster risk reduction. It highlights how the transformation of the global economy over the last forty years has led to rapid increases in disaster risk in low, medium and high-income countries, affecting businesses and societies. The GAR report states that economic losses linked to natural disasters are ‘out of control’ and will only increase without more focus on disaster risk management. This can only be reduced with an effective public and private sector partnership.

A panel discussion at the Conference provided an opportunity to contextualise the GAR theme within a Sri Lankan context. Dr Bingu Ingirige from the University of Salford, UK introduced highlights of the GAR report and its significance to the community. Marina Mohammed, the Secretary to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Disaster Management, identified the importance of the GAR report by highlighting the 3 key sectors based on their pertinence to Sri Lanka: tourism, one of the main income earning sectors; agriculture, which contributes 30% of the country’s GDP; and urban planning, including key projects such as the Urban Colombo flood control programme.

Dan Lewis, a UN HABITAT expert contributed to the plenary session as a panel member highlighting how the GAR reports starting in 2009 helped frame global discussion on disaster risk reduction. His brief presentation identified how the latest GAR report shifts the thinking from a shared risk to a shared value paradigm identifying the case for public and private sectors taking a more systematic approach to address the underlying disaster risk drivers. Prof. Mohan Kumaraswamy, an expert on public and private sector partnership (PPP) schemes brought to light the people aspect and how involving the fourth “P”, ‘People’ comprising communities, academia professionals and other stakeholders, may help focus on long-term shared value targets within a public – private partnership, therefore overcoming barriers.

Within Sri Lanka, the panel identified a need to improve the knowledge, capacity and capability of conducting Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for all developments, including those developed by both the public and private sector. Members of the panel cautioned that some of the new developments appeared to be increasing the risk of disasters. However, in terms of recent developments, the keynote presentation identified that the road sector has already implemented the process of Disaster Impact Assessments.

The panel discussion also identified a lack of technical knowledge in preparation of hazard and vulnerability maps, which could otherwise benefit the business sector in locating their enterprises. In moving forward, the Ministry of Disaster Management encouraged scientists to work with them in uplifting the capacity and capabilities of the Sri Lankan public and private sector bodies to improve disaster risk reduction. The specific areas of input identified were: Risk transfer schemes and insurance; Damage loss assessments and DRR needs assessments; and, Preparation of vulnerability and risk maps covering some of the key geographic areas.

 

Capacity Building Workshop for the Southern Provincial Council

Download the message to the Conference workshop for local government officials from Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) of the United Nations for Disaster Risk Reduction Message from Margareta Wahlström.

Alongside the main conference, a workshop for capacity building on disaster resilient measures was organised in association with the Federation of Sri Lankan Local Government Authorities, the Southern Provisional Council, Sri Lanka and University of Salford, UK. The event was well attended by technical offices and engineers of the Southern Provincial council. As part of the workshop, a number of guest presentations were delivered by academics from: the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka; the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka; and the University of Salford, UK. The speeches focused on improving disaster resilient measures within the built environment. Further, with the participation of members of the Southern Provincial council, a discussion was conducted to make recommendations for Post 2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction: Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA2). Participants of the workshop collectively addressed the following key areas related to disaster risk reduction at local level:

• existing/applied tools and mechanisms for taking disaster risk information into account in construction

• strengths and weaknesses of existing/applied tools and mechanisms for achieving disaster resilient construction at the local level

• disaster risk information available and how is it used for urban/habitat/infrastructure construction planning to make them disaster resilient

• main barriers for developing and utilizing disaster risk inclusive land use plans, spatial and habitat plans, building codes and how these barriers can be overcome in ongoing and future construction activities?

The suggestions made during the workshop will be fed into the on-going HFA2 consultation process.

 

 

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