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Community-based Disaster Risk Reduction conference held at Kolkata

© UNICEF/ Subhankar Bhattacharya/ 2008
Dr. Sreekumar Mukherjee, Minister for Civil Defence, Government of West Bengal speaking at the Community based disaster risk reduction conference.

Kolkata, West Bengal: A three-day conference on Community-based Disaster Risk Reduction (CBDRR) organized by UNICEF in partnership with the Government of West Bengal, Sphere India, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and RedR India was held in Kolkata from 26-28 November, 2008.  Around 140 participants including representatives from the government, UN agencies, Red Cross Society, donors and NGOs from 7 South Asian countries, i.e. Nepal, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Thailand and 13 states of India participated in the conference.

In view of recurring disasters in Asia, many mitigation interventions have been undertaken by various stakeholders in recent times, resulting in reduction of deaths and losses.

The event provided an opportunity to share experiences and good practices in implementing CBDRR projects in India and in the region.  It also aimed at providing a platform for networking among practitioners working on CBDRR.  In view of recurring disasters in Asia, many mitigation interventions have been undertaken by various stakeholders in recent times, resulting in reduction of deaths and losses. The Hyogo protocol and Millennium Development Goals enunciate the need for CBDRR approach and mainstreaming disaster management in development.

The conference was inaugurated by Mr. Sreekumar Mukherjee, Minister for Civil Defence, Government of West Bengal.  While speaking at the conference, he stressed the need for involvement of communities in risk reduction, which is yielding positive results in the state.  Ann Hasselbalch, UNICEF India Deputy Director Operations, reaffirmed UNICEF’s commitment towards CBDRR.

Other key speakers included Pieter Bult, Deputy Director UNDP India;  Indira Kulenovic, DG ECHO,  DIPECHO South Asia;  G. Padmanabhan, Emergency Analyst UNDP India; Lori Calvo, UNICEF State Representative West Bengal; Srdjan Stojanovic, Chief, Emergency, UNICEF India. The valedictory session was chaired by  Vinod Menon, Member of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) India.

© UNICEF/ Subhankar Bhattacharya/ 2008
Making Banana Raft, a traditional coping mechanism which helps people to float in water during floods.

The issues deliberated at the conference included CBDRR policy, lessons learnt during the implementation of several community lead initiatives in urban and rural environments across South Asia, climate change and its impact on recurring disasters, partnerships for CBDRR, etc.  A number of short documentary films capturing experiences from various countries across South Asia were shown during the conference.

As a part of the conference, participants visited UNICEF CBDRR project areas in the South 24 Parganas and Nadia districts of the state of West Bengal and interacted with NGO partners and communities. Community members shared their disaster risk reduction learning and demonstrated seven steps for reducing risks to cope with natural calamities. The conference will contribute towards further promoting CBDRR initiatives in India, improving regional collaboration among practitioners and strengthening UNICEF global disaster risk reduction policies.

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