Every year, more than 200 million people are affected by natural hazards, and the risks are increasing -- especially in developing countries, where a single major disaster can set back healthy economic growth for years. As a result, approximately one trillion dollars have been lost in the last decade alone.
This is why disaster risk reduction is so essential. Mitigating disasters requires education, training, and capacity building at all levels, and it calls for a change of thinking, to shift from post-disaster reaction to pre-disaster action -- this is UNESCO’s position.
For this, we must mobilise scientific knowledge and technological know-how to assess natural hazards, to develop tools to support decision-making and to strengthen disaster preparedness and mitigation measures. We need to improve understanding of natural hazards -- about where and when they might occur and their intensity. We must also promote sound scientific, engineering and construction principles in order to prevent their effects. For this, education and public awareness are essential, as is also the sharing of scientific knowledge and technological developments.
Earthquakes pose considerable risks to livelihoods and the environment, and this is why earthquake-proof buildings are so important, built according to building codes and guidelines that are backed by seismology and engineering knowledge.
In too many countries, especially developing countries, there are too many non-engineered buildings, which are extremely vulnerable in the face of earthquakes. This is the importance of the 1986 Guidelines for Earthquake Resistant Non-Engineered Construction , and the urgency of their revision to reflect new research, practices and developments.
The 2005 United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction called for improving the safety of buildings as a priority for global disaster reduction efforts, including through a “building disaster reduction network.” On this basis, the International Plat-form for Reducing of Earthquake Disaster (IPRED) was launched at UNESCO in 2008, including representatives of major earthquake prone countries.
The International Platform seeks to identify both gaps and priorities by sharing of knowledge and experience in the field of seismology and earthquake engineering.
It works also to heighten political will and raise public awareness, in order to better prepare against earthquakes and foster a new culture of safety.
UNESCO and UNESCO IPRED members have reviewed the 1986 Guidelines guided by these goals. This revised edition draws on recent research, adding more building types and good practices, to promote the construction of safer non-engineered buildings.
This is essential work, and I wish to thank all those who have contributed. I am confident that the revised Guidelines will be used by practitioners across the world, to reduce the damage of earthquakes for non-engineered buildings and to save precious lives -- especially of the most vulnerable.
Director-General of UNESCO