Community Resilience was the theme of the 2011 International Disaster & Emergency Resilience (IDER) conference held in Florence, Italy on April 13 & 14. Representatives of civil agencies, NGOs, the United Nations, the European Commission and academic researchers and expert advisors from around the world took part in this conference. Here are a few comments I heard frequently from delegates at the conference: “ We need to find our strength and build deeper community resilience.” “Where is the pain most deeply felt?” “How can we heal wounds?” “Purpose can emerge from pain.”
Paola Albrito of the Head Regional Office for Europe, located in Brussels, Belgium, gave an overview of the Making Cities Resilient Campaign, an initiative of the UN as part of their strategy for disaster reduction (UNISDR). The idea is to identify 25 role model cities, 500 active cities and 1,000 engaged cities in the program by end 2011. At present over 150 cities are participating.
“Ms. Albrito’s remarks set the tone for the conference in that a primary focus of disaster preparedness must be community-driven measures. Communities must learn to be self-motivating and self-measuring in order to reduce their vulnerability.” Elena Mendoza, Marketing Director, Europe, who represented Aidmatrix in Florence.
Professor David Alexander of the University of Florence, (CESPRO), considered the Japanese Tsunami in terms of community response and its ongoing impact. Case Studies in challenges driven by climate change, in particular, flooding; the importance of planning for the safety of animals during disasters; lessons from FEMA and the Salvation Army in the US; as well as a look at what was done right, for example, in building construction in earthquakes, provided an outstanding opportunity for engagement, resources, examples of best practices and a clear call to action and renewed efforts in disaster readiness at the local level.