A conference on “Assessing and Managing Risks in Lebanon” was conducted at the Grand Serail, on October 17-18, 2012, in partnership between the UN and the National Council for Scientific Research (NCSR). The conference aimed to promote a common understanding of the risks which Lebanon currently faces, and to discuss practical strategies to strengthen resilience and to reduce vulnerabilities. It was held in the presence of His Excellency the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr Najib Mikati, H.E. Ambassador of Switzerland to Lebanon, Ms Ruth Flint, Mr Robert Watkins, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, the Secretary-General of the National Council for Scientific Research, Dr Mouïn Hamze, and the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Ms Margareta Wahlström.
Around 100 Experts, practitioners, and decision makers from a wide range of fields and disciplines attended the conference, including H.E. the Minister of Information, Mr Walid Al Daouk, Mrs. Annamaria Laurini, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon, the General Director of the Civil Defence, General Remond Khattar, the Lebanese Red Cross Operations Director, Mr George Kettaneh, and a number of ambassadors, representatives from the Government, local authorities, academia, scientific institutions, international and local non-governmental organisations, the United Nations, as well as the media.
Dr Mouïn Hamze, the Secretary-General of the National Council for Scientific Research, stated in his speech that the NCSR, with its 4 research centres providing scientific data on natural hazards, is an effective contributor to the knowledge needed for planning and designing relevant preparedness, early warning, and response mechanisms on the national level. He added that scientific knowledge and research on natural hazards should play an important role in guiding legislation, management, and coordination of disaster risk reduction. He further stated that the conference would provide an opportunity for national entities to liaise and build partnerships with international associations in view of sharing experiences and learning.
In her speech, Ms Wahlström thanked the NCSR, UNDP and the Disaster Risk Management team at the Prime Ministers’ office for organizing the conference, which offers an interesting forum to explore in depth the profile of disaster risk in Lebanon and seek ways of addressing imminent threats from hazards that expose the Lebanese population and assets to potential losses. Ms Wahlström commended the increasing commitment and progressive efforts that are being undertaken by the Lebanese government and its partners to adopt a comprehensive disaster risk reduction agenda, illustrated by the establishment of a national committee on the implementation of, and reporting on the Hyogo Framework for Action, the development of a national disaster response plan, the completion of the first national disaster loss database in Lebanon, and the draft law on establishing a disaster risk reduction national agency. She added that the fact that 257 Lebanese municipalities and municipal unions have joined the Making Cities Resilient: 'My City is getting ready!' campaign, thus representing a quarter of the total number of cities in the campaign globally, is a remarkable statement of commitment at local level and an acknowledgement of the role played by local authorities in advancing risk reduction and boosting resilience.
Finally, Ms Wahlström called for the integration of risk reduction in urban planning, land use management and local communities’ preparedness, and emphasized the need to extend partnerships to the private sector, media, and the scientific community, while stating that Lebanon’s Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will mark a valuable step in this direction.
Mr Robert Watkins, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, noted the country's vulnerability to a wide range of disasters including earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, landslides, and forest fires, the effects of which have been loss to life, injuries, loss of livelihoods, and damage to the Lebanese economy. In this regard, Mr Watkins renewed his commending to the Lebanese Government and national stakeholders to ensure that Lebanon is prepared to mitigate against disasters. Mr Watkins also took the opportunity of the IDDR 2012 theme “Women and Girls: the (in)Visible force of resilience” to underline the contribution of all Lebanese women to make their communities more resilient to disasters and climate risks.
His Excellency the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr Najib Mikati, emphasized that "the responsibility which lies on individuals in reducing the risks of disasters are parallel to the responsibility of the official departments of the Government” and success of disaster risk reduction depends on effective collaboration between the two. He added that the recommendations that will be issued from the conference will be a “catalyst” for a disaster risk reduction strategy which includes prevention and preparedness. He further noted the efforts being undertaken by the Lebanese Government in collaboration with UNDP in institutionalizing DRM through drafting general guidelines for a DRM commission to be the national authority on disaster risk management, as well as supporting the joining of 257 municipalities to the World Disaster Reduction campaign, and finally capacity building and awareness raising with the different sectors.
H.E. Mr Mikati stressed on the essential role played by the NCSR as well as academic institutions in furthering knowledge related to the natural hazards that Lebanon is exposed to, and presented a request for academic institutions to initiate a new specialization in disaster risk management.
The conference provided an opportunity for local as well as international experts to share experiences about the importance of knowledge on risks, generated by research, in mitigating for disasters.