In the run-up to the conference, over the last nine months talks and negotiations took place in Geneva, and these were successfully concluded from 13 to 18 March in Sendai. Switzerland was actively involved in efforts to achieve a forward-looking convention, as was demonstrated in particular with its hosting of the preparatory process in Geneva and in its role as member of the 11-member conference committee.
In total, delegations from 187 countries and 6,500 participants took part in the WCDRR, to negotiate, to express the importance of the issue and to commemorate the serious earthquake and tsunami that struck eastern Japan on 11 March 2011.
Speaking at the high-level event of the Sendai conference, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter stressed that disaster risk reduction should be embedded more fully in development strategies. Switzerland called for preventive measures to be properly implemented at the local level to help those population groups affected – in particular in programmes of the SDC and Swiss relief organisations. The private sector too, along with other actors, should be more closely involved in disaster risk reduction. The insurance sector, for example, has considerable expertise in the areas of risk management and risk transfer.
The Swiss delegation expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the Sendai conference. "The successful conclusion of the Sendai conference clearly shows that the international community is committed to working together in order to protect the world from disasters, making use of all the knowledge and resources available. Switzerland has the ability and the desire to make an active and valuable contribution in this area," said Manuel Bessler, the delegate of the Federal Council for Swiss Humanitarian Aid and head of the Swiss delegation in Sendai. He emphasised in particular that the framework gives clear recognition to the fact that successful disaster risk reduction needs to be understood as the responsibility of society as a whole.
In the light of the challenges that lie ahead, the agreement is of great significance. The effects of disasters have increased during the last few years and no country is immune to them. Developing countries are particularly affected by disasters, where the poorest and most vulnerable population groups suffer the most. Looking forward, humanity will have to face an increased risk of disasters. Because of climate change, weather-related events will become more common, more intense and more unpredictable. Continued environmental degradation, population growth and urbanisation also mean that many societies will be more vulnerable than in the past.
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