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Uniting against disasters - World Civil Defence Day

Posted on 2nd March 2017 at 16:09pm

On the occasion of World Civil Defence Day, Secretary General of the International Civil Defence Organisation, Dr Vladimir Kuvshinov, thanked all rescuers and firefighters for their unity and solidarity. This is what he said.

In recent times, more than 200 million people worldwide have suffered the impact of natural and man-made disasters every year, and this number is on the rise owing to the degradation of the environment, climate change and an increased frequency of technological accidents. Whereas, in 2015, large-scale disasters caused US$ 66.5 in economic damage, by the end of 2016 this figure had already grown to 175 billion dollars.

Civil Defence exercise in Kazakhstan (photo: ICDO)

The right to live in safety is one of the basic universal human rights. The lack of safety not only poses a risk to life and a decrease in life quality, it also creates an obstacle for the sustainable development of civil society.

Civil protection must therefore become an essential element of every country’s national security. Without technically-equipped and professionally-trained civil defence services it is impossible to ensure the normal functioning of any state or to guarantee safe living conditions for its people.

In 2017, the theme for the World Civil Defence Day celebration is: “Together with civil defence against disasters.” Here, the aim is to highlight the importance of co-ordinating efforts by national authorities, civil defence services, mass media and civilian populations to prevent disasters in an efficient manner and to combat them if and when they occur.

No one should remain indifferent to the problems caused by disasters because everyone is affected by them. Without preparedness and mitigation strategies in place, disasters will continue to inflict severe damage to housing, productive assets, health systems, sanitation facilities and other important infrastructure. They also cause many casualties and loss of life among the general population as well as an increase in the number of orphaned, abandoned or homeless children.

Experience has shown that the effects of large-scale disasters can be so challenging that even the most developed countries may have difficulty coping with them rapidly and effectively. Today there is widespread awareness that we need to unite our efforts at the international, national and local levels to prevent and mitigate disasters. Accordingly, the International Civil Defence Organisation (ICDO) is calling upon its member states to strengthen and develop broad regional and international co-operation to assure the protection of their populations and the environment from natural and man-made disasters.

Co-operation aimed at preventing and eliminating disasters and emergency situations not only helps to resolve the immediate problem of providing assistance to the civilian population, but also serves to bring people closer together and to strengthen relations among countries.

Of course, the main responsibility for managing disasters lies with the national civil defence services, but without the involvement of local authorities, public organisations, the private sector, the media and educational institutions, it is hard to achieve sustainable results. Each one of these bodies can play an important role with regard to promoting and disseminating knowledge in the field of civil defence and in raising public awareness. For instance, it is necessary for everyone to understand that the culture of safe behaviour begins on the individual level, with every citizen of every country. People should know how to protect themselves from risks and how to behave in emergency situations. Such a people-centred approach is crucial because technology alone cannot save lives. There might be enough equipment and other means available for everyone’s protection, but the public must learn how to make use of them if they are to be of any help.

World Civil Defence Day celebrations serve to focus public attention on the role of civil defence and the vital necessity of disaster prevention and preparedness. However, this kind of awareness raising should continue throughout the year in order to be effective.

With this in mind, the ICDO recommends that the following activities be organised in 2017 to promote and disseminate knowledge about the role and place of civil protection in modern society:

  • Courses for the civilian population on different aspects of safety at home and at work;
  • Screening of videos and documentary films on civil defence with the help of the media;
  • Exhibitions to increase awareness among children and adults about civil protection issues;
  • Lessons in schools and educational establishments to teach children the basic elements of safety and security;
  • Courses on good practices and emergency response in the workplace;
  • Workshops and conferences on the subject of civil protection; and
  • Television and radio presentations by senior national civil protection authorities on ways to improve community-preparedness to face emergencies and disasters.

For the ICDO, the year 2017 is noteworthy in several ways. This year we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the ICDO secretariat in Geneva, in light of the fact that the headquarters of the "Association of Geneva Zones" (which was created in 1931 in Paris and which later became the ICDO) was transferred to Geneva in 1937. We are also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the signing of the “Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of international and non-international armed conflicts” in 1977. Finally, in May 2017, the 50th jubilee session of the ICDO Executive Council will take place in Geneva. By commemorating these milestones we are affirming our commitment to work even better in the future, with even more dedication and professionalism.

World Civil Defence Day celebrations help to further unite the community of ICDO Member States. In addition, they support our common goal and objective, which is to strengthen national civil defence services worldwide. They also serve to promote public-private partnerships in the field of disaster management and to encourage public participation in activities aimed at the promotion and dissemination of knowledge about civil defence.

I am convinced that the celebration of World Civil Defence Day makes a significant contribution to our joint efforts to protect people, property and the environment from the effects of natural and man-made disasters.

In conclusion, on the eve of World Civil Defence Day 2017, I would like to pay tribute to all of the victims of duty who have sacrificed their lives in the course of their work to protect the civilian population in times of emergency or disaster.

I would also like to sincerely thank all civil protection personnel, rescuers and firefighters for their unity and solidarity, as well as for their courage and continued readiness to defend the interests of the civilian population and to protect it from disasters. These qualities, which are shared by dedicated civil defence workers, rescuers and firefighters everywhere, are ones which we must all develop and apply to meet the growing challenges of the 21st century together.

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