Red Cross calls for focus on the most vulnerable at major global disaster conference

16 September 2022

With the poorest and most vulnerable set to bear an ever-increasing brunt of the world’s disasters, Australian Red Cross is calling for such communities to be prioritised in planning and laws.

Australian Red Cross is participating in next week’s 2022 Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (APMCDRR) convened by the United Nations and hosted by the Australian Government, in Brisbane from 19 – 22 September.

The conference is the main Asia-Pacific platform to drive disaster risk reduction efforts and cooperate on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. It will be attended by up to 3000 delegates including government ministers from about 40 countries, intergovernmental organisations, international and national organisations and stakeholder groups.

Australian Red Cross Head of International Technical Services Veronica Bell said Red Cross advocates to ensure global commitments translate into local action and impact. “Communities are the front line for risk management, early action and preparedness. We need to work with them to ensure they are empowered to manage risks and that decision making and funding are devolved to the local area,” she said.

“And more needs to be done to assist people displaced by climate change. The issue of climate-related displacement in the Pacific is critical, and we urge the Australian Government to make it easier for people forced to leave their country by climate change to live, work and study in Australia. People across the Pacific who are experiencing increasing climate risks should have diverse, dignified and voluntary pathways to safety – including across national borders – before a disaster strikes or a place becomes uninhabitable. This could be through labour migration, education and training, humanitarian entry and stay, and family reunification.”

Red Cross Head of Emergency Services Andrew Coghlan said there also needs to be a serious scaling up of investment in disaster risk reduction.

“We call for greater investment in approaches that have proven to work in anticipating extreme events, such as forecast-based action and community-based disaster resilience, so more communities are better prepared before a disaster strikes,” he said.

“In Australia, there’s been a significant improvement in the funds for DRR and community resilience strengthening recently with the creation of the Preparing Australia Grant Program, and $50 million a year from the former Emergency Response Fund (ERF) going towards resilience measures. Red Cross welcomes the transition of ERF to the Disaster Ready fund which is a move to pre-disaster resilience building. The investment of $200 million annually in disaster risk reduction is welcome.

“We call on the Australian Government to ensure these funds are also made available for non-structural measures such as community-based resilience and early warning systems, as well as structural measures. We also call on State and Territory Governments to match this commitment of $200 million to substantially increase investment in DRR. With disaster risk increasing with a changing climate, more needs to be invested in reducing risk, and funding needs to reach those who face the greatest risk, both in Australia and throughout our region,” Mr Coghlan said.

Australian Red Cross will host Red Cross Red Crescent partners from more than 23 countries at the conference. It has contributed to shaping the program, is convening a pre-conference event to promote learning between Red Cross Red Crescent disaster experts across the region, and is hosting a dinner for Red Cross Red Crescent representatives and key partners. It is also providing trained volunteers to help meet and greet delegates and is contributing to exhibition booths with materials and interactive sessions to highlight our work.

The conference will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Media contacts: Red Cross senior media advisers Susan Cullinan 0448 326 335 and Carolyn Varley 0417 634 044

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