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Pacific Islands: Acting Today for Tomorrow will Save Lives and Reduce Economic Losses

June 5, 2012

Suva, June 4, 2012 - Changing how disasters and other extreme events are managed in the Pacific will significantly lessen the region’s vulnerability, save lives and reduce economic losses says the World Bank’s Acting Today for Tomorrow report launched today in Suva, Fiji. Since 1950 extreme events have affected approximately 9.2 million people in the Pacific, causing 9,811 deaths and damage of around US$3.2 billion. Eight Pacific nations sit amongst the world’s top twenty countries with highest average annual disaster losses as a proportion of gross domestic product. Unless development planning in Pacific Islands countries takes into account the assessment of climate and disaster risks, these countries will remain among the most vulnerable in the world.

“By acting today and acting differently, Pacific Island countries can dramatically improve their outcome for tomorrow, including saving thousands of lives and insuring against devastating economic losses due to climate change and natural disasters, said Emilia Battaglini, World Bank report co-author. “Informed management of climate and disaster risks reduces countries’ vulnerability and promotes more resilient development. Everyone has a role to play in reducing risk, and this report outlines measures for governments, donors and regional organisations that will help improve the long-term resilience of the Pacific Islands region.”

Traditional approaches to managing disaster risks, like immediate disaster relief, focus on the symptoms of natural hazards, rather than addressing the long-term causes of vulnerability. If this approach continues it will result in increased economic and human losses from extreme events in the pacific region.

The report outlines a number of initiatives that could be adopted by Pacific governments to help build resilience. These include grounding disaster and climate risk considerations into all investments and development initiatives. It also suggests donors and governments need to invest upfront in initiatives geared towards building long term resilience rather than merely responding to natural disasters. And suggests they would benefit from combining efforts and aligning funding sources for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, so as to avoid duplication and waste.

The report also suggests that countries will be better prepared if governments can prioritize climate and disaster risk management and anchor these policies in one of the central ministry, such as the Ministry of Finance.

The report was written after extensive consultations with Pacific Island governments, regional organizations, donors, civil society and other development partners. It can be found online at www.worldbank.org/pi


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