On 6 March, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, participated in the Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters, an initiative of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with his Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), and the High Level Expert Panel on Water and Disasters (HLEP/UNSGAB).
The special session was opened with the participation of the HIH Crown Prince of Japan, HRH the Prince of Orange as well as Dr Han Seung-soo, Founding Chair of the HLEP/UNSGAB and HE Mr Vuk Jeremic, President of the UN General Assembly. This is the first high-level UN event dedicated to the issue of water and disasters, and it seeks to raise awareness, share best practices and experiences, and discuss future global actions on water and disasters.
In this framework, Irina Bokova co-chaired a panel discussion entitled “Experience and Lessons of Water and Disasters” with the Secretary-General of World Meteorological Organization, Michel Jarraud. The panel discussion brought together High-level expert officials from both Member States and international bodies, with broad experience in addressing water and disasters, to share experiences and lessons on how to prepare for large-scale water disasters, including droughts. Panelists included Mr Shigeru Kikukawa, Vice Minister of Land, infrastructure, transport and tourism of Japan, Mr Thomas P Bostick, Chief of US Army Corps of Engineers, Mr Bai-mass Taal, Executive Secretary of AMCOW, Mr Rae-kwon Chung, from UNESCAP, and Dr Florika Fink-Hooijer, from the European Commission, as well as a representative of the Ministry of Water Resources of the People's Republic of China.
“We all know the power of water – yet, far too often, it catches us at a loss,” said the Director-General. “With the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, we have a cross-cutting approach to reduce the risks of disasters -- before, during and after an event. The key objective is to connect all the dots. Our starting point is that disaster risk reduction cannot be seen solely as a humanitarian or a technical issue. It is a development issue. It is about the resilience of societies. Fundamentally, it is about capacity of individuals to respond to change while remaining true to their values.” Irina Bokova underlined the wide approach undertaken by UNESCO, drawing on its International Hydrological Programme, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, 29 water-related Chairs and 18 water-related centres.
On 6 March, the Director-General gave also the keynote speech to the UNESCO-organized CSW side-event on the “Safety of Women Journalists,” with the participation of Ambassador Mr. Eduardo Ulibarri, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica and Ambassador Mr Martin Sajdik, Permanent Representatives of Austria, as well as Nanette Braun from UN Women and experts from the Women's Media Center, Columbia University as well as Pamela S. Falk, CBS correspondent and President of the UN Correspondents Association.
“We live in a world flooded with information and communication – and yet, every day, freedom of expression faces new threats, every day the voices of the news are extinguished,” said the Director-General. In this context, she continued, “this is why the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, spearheaded by UNESCO, is so important.”