UN official calls on China to boost disaster reduction

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China must play a leading role in reducing the impact of natural hazards, a senior United Nations official said Tuesday, adding that private sector partnerships can significantly help to increase businesses' ability to deal with and recover from disasters.

A worker in Wenchuan County, China, severely damaged by an earthquake in 2010, mixing cement at a new government-subsidized housing scheme. [un.org]

A worker in Wenchuan County, China, severely damaged by an earthquake in 2010, mixing cement at a new government-subsidized housing scheme. [un.org]

Speaking at a meeting with entrepreneurs and business leaders in China, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, said the country can be a notable contributor to "promote public/private sector partnerships in reducing the impact of natural hazards and building the resilience of business to disasters."

According to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), China experienced more major reported disasters last year than any other country.

"Studies show that the average property loss is 20 times larger for companies with weak physical risk management practices," Ms. Wahlström said. "Integrating disaster risk reduction into business planning contributes to the sustainable reduction of disaster losses and helps to save lives, jobs and important infrastructure."

The meeting is the first of a series of consultations that will discuss opportunities for enterprises to integrate disaster risk reduction into their business management cycle, particularly in urban areas.

The participants include members from the Bank of China, the China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd, China Petroleum Equipment Co. Ltd, the China Association of Women Entrepreneurs, the World Cities Scientific Development Alliance and a number of major investment companies.

The participation of Chinese businesses in sustainable development initiatives was also a major topic today at a meeting between Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and members of the Lenovo Group and China Entrepreneurs Club in New York, where Mr. Ban urged the business leaders to commit to corporate sustainability.

Mr. Ban spoke of the importance of public and private sector collaboration, and stressed that this would be a key factor for the success of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro next June, when world leaders will meet to address emerging challenges on sustainable development.

"You have tremendous power and resources that can lead your companies and communities towards a green future," Mr. Ban told business leaders during the meeting. "Let us work together to ensure that corporate sustainability has a high profile at Rio+20."

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