UNDP and Lebanese Government initiate collaboration with media leaders in endorsing DRR

05 Oct 2012

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In the context of the Lebanese Government commitment to Disaster Risk Reduction, and within the joint program between UNDP and the Lebanese Presidency of the Council of Ministers, a workshop was held with the leaders of the major media institutions in Lebanon, under the patronage of the Minister of Information, H.E. Mr Al Daouk, and in the presence of Dr Samir El Daher, advisor to the Prime Minister and National focal point for disaster risk management, Mr Robert Watkins, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Mr Shombi Sharp, UNDP Deputy Country Director, and Denis McClean, Chief of Communications and Outreach at the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The workshop represents a first in gathering around 43 chairman of the board ,news directors, and general managers of the major audio-visual and print media, in addition to the president of the Syndicate of Press, the National News Agency, and the National Press Council, aiming to get their endorsement of the Government Disaster Risk Reduction programs, and commitment to their critical role in preparedness and response and to raise awareness on how people are taking action to reduce their risk to disasters.

Mr Watkins, opened the workshop while noting that “the scale of devastation from natural disasters each year is nothing short of staggering, and with climate change and growing population and environmental pressures, there’s an urgent need to invest much more in prevention and preparedness in addition to response”. In this regard, he stated that “it’s very encouraging that the government of Lebanon is spearheading the development of a National Risk Reduction Strategy and Disaster Response Plan, and UNDP is proud to be able to support this process together with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The draft law for a new national Disaster Risk Reduction agency, currently under discussion in the parliament, if passed, will provide Lebanon with even more robust tools for prevention and response”.

H.E. Mr Al Daouk, Minister of Information, has expressed that the workshop is an opportunity of utmost importance in fostering increased contribution of the media in raising awareness of the public as to preparedness measures, stating that the lessons learned from the coverage of the Ethiopian plane crash in 2010 can be well employed in promoting sensitive and objective news.

The workshop also allowed the media leaders to get an overview of the results of the recent national risk profile presented by the UNDP consultant, Dr Fadi Hamdan, particularly denoting the risks faced by the different sectors, such the infrastructural challenges linked with rapid urbanization and the lack of enforcement of legislation such as the building codes.

This was followed by a presentation by Mr Denis McClean, who shared a global perspective on the media’s evolving role in DRR from considering disaster news as a regular scoop, to the arising need induced by worldwide disaster phenomena to a policy change in media reporting in DRR. In fact, he pointed out in his presentation the different roles that reporters, editors, and media institutions need to assume in “investigating the causes of disasters, advocating for policy change, in addition to educating the population”.

One of the workshop’s conclusions will be the preparation by UNDP and the Lebanese Government of a media plan that will serve as a roadmap for the future collaboration with the media in DRR, particularly to respond to the expressed need of specialized capacity building of journalists in DRR, and the allocation of regular DRR news coverage.

It is worth it to mention that in Lebanon, most resources are often directed at relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts and not enough at prevention and disaster risk reduction although Lebanon is subject to a range of natural hazards. The largest single disaster threat is that of a severe earthquake and associated Tsunami. In addition, typical smaller-scale disasters include floods, forest fires, land-slides and drought.