With the President having virtually absolute power and the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Alliance having a patched up two-thirds majority in Parliament, many independent analysts and possibly most of the people fear Sri Lanka is heading towards a situation like in Myanmar. Partly due to world market forces, the cost of living is soaring to unprecedented levels. Not only the poverty-stricken people, but even most middle-income families are finding it difficult to have three proper meals a day and to provide money for the education, healthcare, clothing and other basic facilities for the parents and the children. This week the LITRO Gas Company announced an huge increase of more than Rs.1,100 for a 12.5kg cylinder of Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG). Following this the Bakers’ Association announced that it was increasing the price of bread and other items while eateries said they were increasing the price of a packet of lunch and other food items. Amid such crises, teachers, principals and nurses are staging strikes demanding better wages and other facilities while farmers and other cultivators are complaining that they are sinking deeper into the mud.
In such a situation, which could justifiably be described as a ‘hell of a mess’, the United Nations today marks the international day for disaster risk reduction. Making a statement for international co-operation among developing countries, the UN says this event is an opportunity to acknowledge the progress being made towards reducing disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health.
According to the UN, the 2021 agenda promises to be a make or break year when it comes to delivering on the policy agenda agreed in 2015. Without real action on climate in the next ten years, extreme weather events will be overwhelming, especially for developing countries. Disasters impact low and middle-income countries disproportionately; particularly in terms of mortality, numbers of people injured, displaced and homeless, economic losses as a percentage of GDP and damage to critical infrastructure.
UN says we need to eradicate poverty and hunger, by stepping up investments in disaster risk reduction. International cooperation for developing countries through official development aid and capacity building is essential to boost disaster resilience in the face of extreme weather events and other natural and human-made hazards.
This international day was started in 1989, after a call by the UN General Assembly for a day to promote a global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction. Held on October 13 every year, the day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of reining in the risks that they face. In 2015, at the third UN world conference on disaster risk reduction at Sendai in Japan, the international community was reminded that disasters hit hardest at the local level with the potential to cause loss of life and great social and economic upheaval. Sudden disasters displace millions of people every year. Disasters, many of which are exacerbated by climate change, have a negative impact on investment in sustainable development and the desired outcomes.
The UN says that it is also at the local level that capacities need to be strengthened urgently. The Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction is people-focused and action-oriented in its approach to disaster risk reduction and applies to the risk of small-scale and large-scale disasters caused by human-made, or natural hazards and related environmental, technological and biological hazards and risks.
According to the UN, cities are the front lines in dealing with disasters and are a major emphasis of the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction. They are particularly vulnerable to increasingly frequent and extreme weather hazards, such as storms, climate change impacts, including water shortages, environmental degradation and unsafe construction in areas which are vulnerable to earthquakes or other vibrations of the
earth and its crust.
With so much at stake in the world, we hope the Rajapaksa Government, and opposition parties will become aware that the people elected them not for millionaires to become billionaires as exposed in the ‘Pandora Papers’ but to be servant-leaders who have the spiritual and moral power to work selflessly, sincerely and sacrificially for the people and build national unity.