An upcoming United Nations conference in Sendai aims to raise awareness and galvanize political will to reduce risks posed by natural disasters, a visiting high-ranking official with the world body said Wednesday.

“We have a big aspiration that more political weight and attention will be given to the importance of prevention for sustainable development and for safety” at the Third U.N. World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, said Margareta Wahlstrom, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for disaster risk reduction.

Pointing out economic losses from disasters in the world keep rising as the world becomes richer, Wahlstrom said the international community needs to stop the increase through enhanced efforts for disaster risk reduction.

“(In) the discussions about the impact of GDPs (gross domestic product), first we have to stop the increase to level out before you can start decreasing,” she told reporters at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.

According to the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, which Wahlstrom heads, the total economic impact from disasters in the world stood at $1.4 trillion between 2005 and 2014.

“If all risks were shared equally among the world population, it will be equivalent to an annual loss of almost $70 for each individual of working age, which is about two months of income for people living below the poverty line,” she noted.

The latest U.N. figures released Friday also showed that 700,000 people were killed and 1.7 billion people were affected by disasters worldwide over the 10-year period ending in 2014.

The conference will be held in Sendai from March 14 to 18. During that time, a number of related events will take place in Tohoku, which was hit hard by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

The conference aims to create a new global framework for disaster risk reduction, which will replace the Hyogo Framework for Action adopted at the previous meeting in Kobe in 2005.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.