An-Najah University Launches Disaster Risk Mitigation Project (SASPARM Project) funded by European Union
On Tuesday, Feb. 26th, 2013 An-Najah University launched the "Disaster Risk Mitigation in Palestine" project in the presence of Ms. Margareta Wahlstrom, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Disaster and Risk Reduction, Prof. Rami Hamdallah, University President, Dr. Barbara Borzi. the Head of Vulnerability and Territorial Management Section of Eucentre, and Dr. Jalal Dabeek, Director of the An-Najah Urban Planning and Disaster Risk Reduction Center. The project launch included a workshop and official launching ceremony.
Before the ceremony, Professor Hamdallah met with Ms. Wahlstrom to discuss the UN’s efforts to reduce disaster risks all over the world and, particularly, its work in Palestine. Professor Hamdallah thanked Ms. Wahlstrom for the UN’s contributions to disaster risk reduction in Palestine and emphasized the University’s eagerness to cooperate in disaster risk initiatives through An-Najah’s Urban Planning and Disaster Risk Reduction Center.
In his remarks for the opening session of the workshop, Dr. Hamdallah noted that in carrying out its mission to lessen the loss of lives and to reduce the destruction of infrastructure caused by disasters, the Urban Planning and Disaster Risk Reduction Center at An-Najah is amongst the most preeminent of scientific centers. Commenting on the relevance of disaster risk reduction, Dr. Hamdallah noted, “A quick glance at statistics related to natural disasters shows that over the past two decades the number of natural disasters recorded per year has doubled, going from around 200 a year to around 400 per year.” While this increase is troubling, Dr. Hamdallah noted that current climate change predictions suggest that this increase in natural disasters is likely to continue.
Emphasizing the impact disasters can have on human lives, Dr. Hamdallah noted that, “In various geographical locations, a number of factors are pushing people to live in areas exposed to natural disasters and natural hazards, thereby increasing the effects such disasters have.”
Dr. Hamdallah also pointed out some particular obstacles and complications which exist for disaster risk reduction in Palestine due to the occupation and its policies. For instance, settlement and land policies related to Area C have pushed segments of the Palestinian population to live in areas with high disaster risk exposure.
Following Dr. Hamdallah’s remarks, Dr. Jalal Dabeek discussed the University’s scientific centers in general and in specific the work of the geology and earthquake center which was founded in 1969.
During her meeting with Dr. Hamdallah, Ms. Margareta Wahlstrom expressed her commendation of the University’s progress under Dr. Hamdallah’s leadership in spite of the many obstacles facing the education sector in Palestine. She praised An-Najah’s role in service to the Palestinian community and, in particular, the University’s efforts to advance the community through its scientific centers.
Additionally, Ms. Wahlstrom gave an overview of the UN strategy on disaster risk and discussed the timeline for the strategy’s implementation in Palestine and worldwide. She emphasized the UN’s interest in working with An-Najah through the “Disaster Risk Mitigation” project to mitigate the harmful effects of disasters in Palestine.
In her contribution to the workshop, Ms. Wahlstrom discussed different perspectives which exist at the international level regarding the strengthening of disaster risk reduction programs. She indicated that early warning and detection systems are a welcome introduction to the field of disaster risk reduction. Regarding the local level and disaster risk reduction in Palestine, Ms. Wahlstrom emphasized that municipalities and local councils have an important role to play through urban planning. She also called on the private sector to work in cooperation with the public sector in establishing guidelines to face disasters.
Participants in the workshop included representatives from governmental and non-governmental institutions and field experts and workshop sessions focused on establishing disaster readiness and empowering cities to face disasters.
The workshop’s opening session was held in the H.R.H Prince Turki Bin Abdel-Aziz Theatre in the new campus. Professor Dabeek headed the proceedings and several administration officials attended including Prof. Maher Abu-Eid, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Kherieh Rassas, Deputy President for International Affairs, Dr. Mohammad Hanoon, Vice President of Community Affairs, and Dr. Sam Al-Foqahaa, Director of Public Relations.
Dr. Hamdallah concluded the workshop by presenting Ms. Wahlstrom, Dr. Barbara Borzi, and Dr. Paola Ceresa " IUSS University in Pavia italy" with an appreciation plaque in recognition of their efforts and support.