IFMSA Building A Resilient, Disaster-Free Society

Updates from the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (#WCDRR2015)

東日本大震災. Higashi nihon daishinsai. The Great East Japan Earthquake. It was 2011, March, 11th. The most powerful earthquake hit Japan. Forth in the modern history. And then tsunami came.

Exactly 10 ears after the adaption of the Hyogo Framework for Action stakeholders have gathered to renew commitments to disaster risk reduction leading to a more resilient tomorrow. The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) was hosted by the City of Sendai in the Tohoku Area, striken by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami.

16607631110_724eabc752_oBeing part of the UN Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY), IFMSA co-hosted the official Children and Youth Forum, supported by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR). Led and organized by children and youth themselves, the Children and Youth Forum proved the extended commitment and dedication of young people to Disaster Risk Reduction. The Forum enabeled youth community leaders, advocates and global citizens to voice out the priorities of children and youth and to take actions onimplementation of the Post 2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. By equipping ourselves with a Toolbox for Resilience as an outcome of Children and Youth Forum, we reaffirmed our role as equal stakeholders and as part of the solution.

We were there to show that children and youth have been transformed from being merely a vulnerable group into a resource ensuring a sustainable society. As stated by the Post 2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, ‘children and youth are agents of change’. We are here to stay and are already rethinking ways to ensure resilience to disasters.

‘You are not leaders of tomorrow, you are already leader of today’

16802899236_5762c1601c_oIt is with those words that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recognized the engagement of and welcomed the 200 children and youth gathered from different countries and regions, standing as a small UN General Assembly in front of the UN Secretary General.

The UN Secretary General and the UN Envoy for Youth were introduced by Ms. Moa M Herrgard, UN MGCY Deputy Focal Point for Disaster Risk Reduction and IFMSA Liaison Officer of Human Rights and Peace. The Secretary General was greeted with a Quipú, an ancient art of communication passed down through generations.

Six children and youth representatives addressed the UN Secretary General, highlighting personal stories from their regions while emphasizing the importance of meaningful involvement of young people in ensuring world free of disaster. We also expressed concern as well as gratitude on the process so far, highlighting issues of insecurity,fragility and conflict as some of the contributing risk factors of disasters and disasters by themselves. Voicing out concerns about the relation between climate change and disasters we acknowledged the importance for all nations worldwide. Two of the youth were members of the IFMSA, Moa Herrgard (LO HRP) and Majid Shangab (IFMSA-Egypt).

In his address, the UN Secretary General acknowledged the importance of tackling intolerance, inequity, marginalization, insecurity, and extremism giving a special mention to groups of women, youth, indigenous people, and refugees. Urging us to unify and contribute meaningfully, children and youth were invited to work together to create a resilient tomorrow. Furthermore acknowledging the importance of youth participation, the Secretary General stressed the relevance and essentiality of youth inputs to global policies, including its framing and implementation.

Honoring the theme of Disaster Risk Reduction, the Secretary General addressed both natural disasters often precipitated with climate change, and man-made disastersthat cause human loss, fragility and insecurity. Reflecting the evolution of UN and its reform he seeked for dialogue and constructive solutions other than military means with youth as a one of the main stakeholders.

The Secreatry General concluded his speech by sending a clear message.

“I am asking you to raise your voices and try to cultivate your vision. As global citzens you are coming from many different countries. Geography and boundaries should not mean anything at these times.  I am asking you to raise your vision beyond your national boundaries and by doing this you are having the basic attitude of a global citizen. To be a global citizen, this is your task.’’

3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (UN WCDRR)

Held between 14th – 18th March 2015, in Sendai, Japan, it commemorated the 10 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Several thousand participants attended, with numerous related events linked to the World Conference under the umbrella of building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters. The United Nations General Assembly Resolution for 2013 on International Strategy for Disaster Reduction gave a mandate to the World Conference to create a concise, focused, forward-looking, and action-oriented outcome document for disaster resilience.

Healthcare was one of the overarching topics present in the WCDRR. By engaging in Post 2015 Disaster Risk Reduction process, IFMSA has been advocating for the new directions and innovations that would ensure safe, and disaster free world, taking into account natural and man-made disasters. We have been advocating for safe and resilient hospitals, including safe working environment of healthcare workers in disasters, and equitable access to healthcare and medicines in disasters alongside WHO and other relevant organizations.

Now that the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030 has been adopted IFMSA will continue to work in the spirit of these words aiming to be part of the solution and implementing it at every level as mentioned in IFMSA’s Voluntary Commitments.

Entry written by Ljiljana Lukic (IFMSA Project Support Division Director), Anna-Theresia Ekman (IFMSA-Sweden VPE) and Sam Li (AMSA-HK). 

Photo credits go to Natthan Nguyen (Major Group of Children and Youth).

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