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Mexico: Wealthy nations need to help others cut disaster risk

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Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto opens a three-day conference on natural disasters, in Cancun. Photo: Courtesy

Cancun, Q. Roo — With hurricane season looming on the horizon, President Enrique Peña Nieto addressed a U.N. conference, urging wealthy countries to help poorer ones limit their exposure to natural hazards.

Peña Nieto said Wednesday that threats such as earthquakes and storms “recognize no national boundaries or frontiers or orders of government.”

Some 6,000 participants descended on the resort city for a series of working meetings to make progress on reducing disaster losses.

Hurricane season opens June 1 in the Atlantic Ocean, always a potential threat to Cancun and the rest of Mexico. Mexico’s Pacific border faces similar threats. where the season already began May 15. A quarter of Mexico’s population lives under the threat of hurricanes and a third is vulnerable to earthquakes, Peña Nieto noted.

The President opened the summit when he welcomed delegates from 189 countries and said disasters have no borders. 

Peña Nieto evoked Mexico’s ancient past and the fabled early warning system developed by the Mayan people at the Temple of the Wind in nearby Tulum. He recited the country’s history of exposure to a wide range of disasters including earthquakes, floods, volcanos and drought.

He fully endorsed the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the importance of good risk governance and strong institutions for achieving a reduction in disaster losses.

The President said there is nothing more important than protecting human life and Mexico is fortunate to have a strong national civil protection system in place.

“The most important thing we have learned is to act in a preventive manner and to be prepared in light of unexpected events,” he said.

Ninety percent of deaths from disasters happen in low- and middle-income countries, he noted at the opening of the three-day conference. The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction concludes today.

“In the Caribbean, there are some economies and societies that are especially vulnerable in light of disaster situations that have been aggravated as a result of climate change,” he said, expressing a commitment to support neighboring Caribbean nations.

The summit is the first major meeting since the 15-year Sendai Framework was hammered out in Japan in 2015, setting targets for governments to cut deaths, economic losses and infrastructure damage from disasters by 2030.

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