GENEVA/CAIRO, 28 February 2012 - Morocco is taking steps to join 78 other nations whose governments have created National Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction to support policies for building resilience to disasters.
"The future National Platform will help the work of all sectors to converge into one common objective, which is to construct a country that is safer for current and future generations," said Mehdi Chalabi, Director of Surveillance and Prevention of Risk at the Department of Environment.
Morocco is one of the Arab region's most hazard-prone countries and the economy is frequently affected by dry spells, floods, landslides and invasion by locusts. Parts of the country are also exposed to seismic risk; 12,000 people lost their lives in a massive earthquake in the coastal town of Agadir in 1960. Cities and rural communities alike face the danger of sea-level rise and desertification as a result of climate change.
As with many countries, the responsibility for leading on disaster risk reduction lies within a government ministry which is also the focal point for the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction -- in Morocco's case, within the Department of Environment at the Ministry of Energy, Water, Mines and Environment. But for resilience-building to be effective, there must be strong collaboration and coordination across many ministries.
To realize a "whole-of-society" approach to managing the risk of disaster, the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters -- the world's blueprint for creating resilient communities -- encourages the establishment of National Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction. These are multi-stakeholder organizations aimed at improving national coordination in disaster risk management and reduction.
A road map for creating Morocco's National Platform was developed by 40 participants after three days of meetings earlier this month between government officials from nine ministries -- Energy, Water, Mines and Environment; General Affairs and Governance; the Interior; Health; Agriculture; Education; Finance; Tourism; and Transport.
They were joined by experts in urban development, meteorology, engineering, reinsurance and other fields, along with representatives of the Moroccan Red Crescent National Society, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN's disaster risk reduction office in the Arab States (UNISDR) as main facilitator.
Welcoming the news, UNISDR Regional Programme Officer, Lars Bernd, said disaster risk reduction activities were common in Morocco as a direct result of the country's exposure to a wide range of hazards but the activities "were too loosely connected" and insufficient to meet the population's needs whose vulnerability is growing.
"Given the vulnerability of Morocco's population and growing exposure of the country's economic assets to risk, the forthcoming National Platform, supported by a strategic national action plan, can help trigger more coherent and systematic interventions," said Mr. Bernd.
A robust system for managing disaster risk could also help the country encourage more investment in disaster risk reduction, he added. He referred to the Department of Environment and UNISDR initiative to establish a national disaster loss database that -- once finalized - would assess the costs borne by Moroccan households of disasters both large and small.
In addition, the World Bank is undertaking a probabilistic risk assessment -- a technique used by experts to determine how a complex system of risk assessment can contribute to ensure more safety in Morocco.
Under an existing plan to prevent flood risk, Morocco has already developed a forecasting and flood warning system, according to the 2011 National Hyogo Framework Progress Report for Disaster Risk Reduction. The same report says the country intends to develop a geographic information system containing data on natural and technological hazards across the country, called "GIS-Risk".
Additional support to the event was given by the UN Resident Coordinator's Office and UNICEF Morocco. Funding came from the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery's contribution to UNISDR.