October 18, 2012

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati urged academics and universities across Lebanon Wednesday to focus more research on disaster management and the environmental challenges facing Lebanon.

“Researchers have a primary role in intensifying their research on environmental dangers and our natural resources,” Mikati said in a speech at the opening of the “National Forum on Limiting and Managing Natural Disasters in Lebanon” at the Grand Serail.

Mikati also called on universities to establish new departments to better understand seismological studies and how to best manage natural disasters.

“I call on the universities in Lebanon and especially the Lebanese University to take the initiative to establish a new specialization in the science of seismology and management of natural disasters to better prepare Lebanon in these fields,” the prime minister said.

The forum was attended by United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Robert Watkins, U.N. assistant secretary-general for disaster risk reduction Margareta Wahlstrom, Swiss Ambassador Ruth Flint and a number of officials from the Lebanese Red Cross and the Civil Defense Forces.

Mikati voiced optimism that participants in the forum would develop effective recommendations for Lebanon.

“I am confident the recommendations that will be released from this forum will become a base that would help us find the preventive strategies to limit and control the damages of natural disasters,” he said.

Mikati also said that his government is looking forward to working with the U.N. Development Program to produce an institutional framework for disaster management.

According to Mikati, a national framework is needed to bring together the efforts of some 257 municipalities across the country to raise awareness of disaster management, Lebanon’s vulnerability to earthquakes and other environmental disasters.

“We saw what happened as a result of the first rain of the year … This is proof that the government and the Lebanese should cooperate in limiting environmentalviolations that would result in a bigger and more dangerous disaster,” Mikati said.

Wahlstrom, who was also representing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, called for stronger civil planning to limit the dangers of natural disasters, and praised the steps taken by Lebanon so far.

“What has been achieved so far is the establishment of a national committee for monitoring and reporting on strategies on disasters, and the establishment of the first database on the losses Lebanon has suffered from disasters,” said Wahlstrom in a speech at the Grand Serail.

“In addition to the establishment of a national agency to limit the dangers of disasters, these are all examples of the effective steps that Lebanon has been working on,” she added.

Moeen Hamzeh, the secretary-general of the National Council for Scientific Research, called on the government to facilitate cooperation between civil society groups and official agencies in the country.

“I call for a new law that would facilitate the efforts placed by the government and the civil society groups to confront the dangers when they are expected to happen,” said Hamzeh.

He also said that more research is needed to understand the dangers facing Lebanon. “We need to draw up scenarios that portray real disasters.”

For his part, Watkins said that he was pleased to see that the Lebanese government and nonstate actors in the country were committed to mitigating the risk of natural disasters.

“This forum has gathered a considerable number of experts and decision-makers from various fields, and I want to thank the Lebanese government and the local officials, academics and non-governmental organizations and special thanks to the mayors who have been in this campaign,” said Watkins.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 18, 2012, on page 4.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Local-News/2012/Oct-18/191801-mikati-urges-focus-on-disaster-management.ashx#ixzz29gQpYnm8
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)