UNECE calls for enhanced disaster preparedness in the housing sector
“It is crucial to develop effective standards and regulations and to ensure a proper institutional framework for disaster preparedness and prevention in Azerbaijan and other countries located in disaster-prone areas”, said Mr. Elkhan Asadov, Deputy Head of the Construction Control Agency of Azerbaijan, in his opening address at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) International Forum on Natural Disasters and Building and Construction Safety, which was held on 16 and 17 November in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Recognizing the link between strengthening disaster preparedness and improving security in building construction, the UNECE Committee on Housing and Land Management, in cooperation with the Government of Azerbaijan, organized the International Forum, which considered a number of case studies on disaster preparedness and reconstruction and discussed effective policy solutions for the UNECE region.
“Natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes or flooding, cause severe material devastation and human casualties. In order to avoid such human and economic losses, there is an urgent need to develop effective tools and sound policy instruments to ensure disaster prevention systems that include safety in constructions and buildings”, noted Mr. Marco Keiner, director of the UNECE Environment, Housing and Land Management Division, addressing the Conference.
While safe building stock should be ensured everywhere, and especially in areas prone to disasters, in many countries, particularly those with economies in transition, there is still a big gap between existing seismic and other regulations and their practical application and enforcement. In addition, many single-family houses in rural areas are not built in accordance with building regulations because many households cannot afford the mandated building materials. It is these houses that suffer most when natural disasters strike. Therefore, the enforcement of adequate national building codes is crucial to make buildings disaster resistant and to enhance sustainability in the region.
Participants in the Forum discussed various policy mechanisms aimed at improving disaster preparedness in the region, and showcased a number of best practice examples of spatial planning strategies in disaster-prone areas; improving coordination of disaster risk reduction and its integration in strategies and action plans at the national level; and promoting the use of construction techniques for seismic-resistant houses based on traditional local building materials.
As an outcome of the Forum nine recommended actions were agreed to improve disaster preparedness in the housing sector:
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