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07 June 2014 –  “Future cities are not built after our time.  We start building them today.  Communities, fifty years from now, will look different and people will live differently.  Their realities will not be defined in their time, but in the lifetime of generations before them.”

In her speech to the 2nd Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) Conference held in Beijing, China, Senator Loren Legarda, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Climate Change and the Senate Oversight Committee on Climate Change, and a strong advocate of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in the Asia Pacific, spoke of the need to reassess the way science and policy should work together, emphasizing the importance of translating knowledge into practice to effectively manage disasters and reduce risks.

She underscored the importance of utilizing past experiences, scientific research, and reliable data to effectively institute policies, prepare plans, and implement responses that would reduce the risks of natural disasters, such as the unprecedented Typhoon Haiyan that ravaged parts of the Philippines.  According to her, “it is not enough that climate scientists know the risks.  Governments, local leaders and the people on the ground should understand the vulnerability of their communities and be equipped with options, resources and the tools to enable them to become drivers of action in their respective communities.”

The Senator put forward four lessons from the Philippines’ experience: First, there must be focus on managing the risks rather than managing disasters.  This would involve the understanding and support of the people and the leadership of local government units through effective governance and implementation of laws. Second, science must work for communities, for example, science must aid in strengthening building codes, drawing appropriate land use plans, creating geo-hazard maps, and others. Third, all members of the community must be “disaster-literate,” that is they must be aware of policies, plans, and actions that must be done during times of disasters. Lastly, the environment must be protected and green urban development must be pursued.

According to Senator Legarda, “building on good risk reduction practices means going back to the very basics.  We must protect our environment which supports human life and provides the basic materials for our economy, including food, fuel and clean water.”

In conclusion, Senator Legarda urged the participants of the Conference “to use this opportunity not just to gain knowledge from one another, but also to transform that knowledge into concrete actions.” She emphasized, that “we are builders not just of communities of today, but communities of the future. Let us not rebuild the risks. We must rebuild stronger and wiser.”

The IRDR Conference, convened by the IRDR Programme in partnership with the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), is a gathering of leading experts from the academe and various professions specializing in the field of disaster risk reduction.  This year’s theme is “Integrated Disaster Risk Science: A Tool For Sustainability.” END