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Global Experts to Discuss Innovations in Reducing the Impact of Natural Disasters on People and Economies


Across Africa, people and cities have been impacted by drought and floods caused by changing weather patterns.

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2012—The world’s leading disaster risk management experts will gather in Cape Town, South Africa, from July 2-6 for the  bi-annual meeting on risk assessment—the Understanding Risk (UR) Forum.

As droughts, floods, and tsunamis dominate headlines risking lives, putting the brakes on economic growth and exacerbating poverty, the Cape Town meeting will bring together scientists, information system specialists, public policymakers, private sector representatives and civil society to assess, understand, map and mitigate global risks posed by extreme weather events and to find ways to minimize their impacts on people and economies.

“The UR Forum is a chance for a dedicated community that is passionate about risk assessment to come together and share knowledge, learn from others and ultimately develop solutions to some of the most pressing development challenges posed by extreme weather events,” said Doekle Wielinga, Program Coordinator for Disaster Risk Management in the World Bank’s Africa Region.

The 2012 UR Forum is being hosted by the Government of South Africa, and convened by the World Bank in partnership with the African Development Bank, European Commission, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and a range of development partners united by a common cause: how to reduce the harmful effects of natural disasters on people.

The Forum will open Monday, July 2, with an inaugural session of representatives from the South African government and various partner organizations. Headlined speakers include Honorable Richard Baloyi, South Africa’s Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs - Responsible for the National Disaster Management Center; Rowan Douglas, Chief Executive Officer of the Willis Research Network; Mayor of Cape Town Honorable Patricia de Lille; and Francis Ghesquiere, head of the World Bank Group’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.

Throughout the Forum, sessions led by global experts will cover topics including open data, crowd sourcing, earth observation, floods and droughts, risk assessment tools for decision making and many more. A Mayors Roundtable on Urban Risk will be a highlight of the Forum. Mayors from five African cities will discuss specific actions they are taking to make their cities more resilient to disasters and ways in which they are protecting their citizens.

Forum participants will also receive technical training on emerging tools in risk assessment and will discuss state-of-the-art approaches to disaster risk prevention and mitigation.

Mapping Global Risk

“The theme for this year’s Forum is “Mapping Global Risk”, which will highlight the essential role that hazard, vulnerability and exposure, and data play in making informed decisions to reduce risk,” Wielinga said.

An innovation expo will also be held during the Forum to showcase the latest tools and methodologies.

The Understanding Risk (UR) Community consists of over 2,400 members, representing 160 countries. UR members range from representatives of government agencies, to the private sector, multilaterals, non-governmental organizations, research institutions and community-based organizations.

For more information about the 2012 UR Forum and to participate in online discussions, visit