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Source: United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the OPT
24 February 2013

Remarks by UN Deputy Special Coordinator, James W. Rawley, on the occasion of the opening of workshop
“Developing National Disaster Inventory Management System – Disaster Losses Database”
Ramallah, 24 February 2013

Y.E. Dr. Said Abu-Ali, Minster of the Interior
Brigadier Mohammed Issa
Mrs. Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction
Ladies and Gentlemen

I wish to pay tribute to the Palestinian Civil Defense and its more than 14 years of service to the Palestinian people. Its 1000 dedicated people are at the front line of response when a disaster or an emergency affects the communities of Palestine.

During the storm events of 7-10 January that affected 12,000 people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the State of Palestine’s Disaster Management apparatus was put to the test. Overall, Palestinian authorities including Civil Defense and other Palestinian ministries, together with Palestinian Red Crescent Society, were able to mount an impressive initial response to the affected communities, despite limited resources.

In this context allow me to also pay tribute to the important role played by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society supported by IFRC, the UN (UNRWA, WFP, UNICEF, OCHA), and national and international NGOs, all of which responded to the needs of the communities on the ground.

The experience of this storm was a good test that highlighted both the strengths and the challenges that the system faces to reduce risks, mitigate vulnerabilities and respond when the disaster strikes. In particular, it was noted that there are a number of gaps in Disaster Management capacities on the ground that leave Palestinian communities in a vulnerable position in the event of a sudden-onset natural disaster. Based on this experience, allow me to offer a few reflections for discussion in the interest of improving further national capacities in disaster risk reduction.

I want to acknowledge the important coordinating role of the Palestinian Civil Defense established in the current law #3 of Civil Defense, in case of a major disaster. For its part, the international community, and particularly the United Nations, has been working on capacity building. Indeed five UN agencies in Palestine are collaborating to support relevant Palestinian entities. To that end, a DRR Working Group was established in August 2012 with the participation of UNDP, OCHA, UNOPS, WFP and UNRWA.

The UN DRR initiative focuses on:

In closing, I wish to invite this seminar to reflect on DRR as a whole. While parts of the disaster risk reduction framework are critical to the humanitarian agenda (such as preparedness and early warning systems), we need also to think in terms of development to fully mainstream the risk reduction agenda so that the planning, finance and sectoral line ministries take ownership for reducing underlying risks, forging an “All of Government” approach with partners in Civil Society and the International Community.

The UN stands ready to support your efforts in this regard. Shukran.

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