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The United States and the United Nations

The United Nations is an inter-government organization that enhances cooperation between countries at the global level with its headquarters based in New York City, but there are other big offices in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. Its existence traces back to October 1945, following after the defunct League of Nations. During its formation, it had 51 members, but the number later increased to 193. The areas of its concern are dealt with in various secretariats, and the agenda entails peace, security, human rights, social and economic development, environmental protection, provision of humanitarian assistance during famine, natural disasters, and armed conflicts. The organization draws its funds from voluntary contributions from member states (Kennedy, 2007). The organization, through the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction that deals with social, economic, environmental, and humanitarian affairs issues, developed two initiatives for promoting disaster resilience in its member states, inclusive of the U.S..

The Hyogo Framework for Action (2002-2015) explains and describes in detail the actions required from all actors and sectors to reduce disaster losses. It coordinates between governments, disaster experts, and international agencies by bringing them together in the bid to build resilience of nations and communities to reduce disaster losses in terms of lives and avoid social, economic, and environmental damages. The plan has five priorities of action that include the prioritization of institutionalized risk reduction on the local and national level; identification, assessment, and monitoring of disaster risks to enhance early warning; the use of knowledge, innovation, and education to build a culture of safety; reduction of underlying risk factors; and strengthening of disaster preparedness for effective response (Hyogo Framework for Action).

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The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) is a non-binding voluntary agreement that recognizes states as the major actors but also emphasizes the significance of local government, private sector, households, as well as individuals. The major issues of concern are mortality rates caused by disasters, hazard-related economic losses, damage to infrastructure and disruption of the related services, access to multi-hazard early warning system, and the increased disaster risk reduction strategies. Its priorities are to understand disasters, facilitate the course of mitigation actions, strengthen disaster risks governance, invest in disaster risk reduction, enhance disaster preparedness for effective response, and promote recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction (Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction).

The Hyogo Framework for Action, which is due to expire this year, is crucial in the United States because it provides guidance on the disaster risk reduction attempts in which a number of successes are evident. These are discussed further.

The U.S. government institutionalized its disaster risk reduction by adopting a national policy and a legal framework that has decentralized capacities and responsibilities of the national and local administration. Allocation of resources was devolved to the local levels through the provision of pre-disaster mitigation grants for communities. The societal participation as well as authority was transferred to the local governments, and the examples comprise the building codes and the land use plans. The formation of the United States National Science and Technology Council, a national platform for addressing disaster issues as well as the establishment of an early warning system for a variety of disasters, contributed to the increased resilience in the country (National progress report on the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (2011-2013).

In order to identify, understand, and monitor risks, the United States developed a Hazards U.S. Multi-Hazard Software to store an inventory of assets as well as determine their likelihood to suffer damage during disasters and estimate the expected losses. The government mandated several federal agencies to issue alerts to enhance preparedness, and this is fulfilled through the provision of an early warning system for floods, tsunami, mudflow, and volcanoes among others. All these contribute to better preparedness plans that enable the United States to be one of the most resilient nations in the world (National progress report on the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (2011-2013).

Under the priority of using knowledge, innovation, and education to promote safety, the United States adopted public awareness campaigns for disaster-related issues. Emergency management systems were introduced at all levels; the private sector adopted the use of insurance and catastrophe bonds among others. Disaster issues were incorporated in the school curriculum, and the Federal Emergency Management Association embarked on risk reduction training at the state, local and community levels as well as in the private and public sectors to sensitize the population to the need to take precautions (National progress report on the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (2011-2013).

The United States also adopted measures to reduce the underlying factors, and examples include among others the stabilization of slopes in hilly areas that are prone to slides, rock falls, and mud flows. The enacting of the National Environmental Policy Act calls for measures to promote the coexistence of humans and the nature so as to reduce the adverse effects of human population on the physical environment/ecosystem. In addition, the priority for strengthening the preparedness led to the introduction of the Hazards Mitigation Program that provided grants to states and local governments. The Federal Emergency Management Association provides funds for research to the universities as well as the community-based groups. The Department of Transport also prepares plans for emergency transportation in case of a damaged infrastructure (National progress report on the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (2011-2013).

The challenges facing the two initiatives lie in the hands of the government as well as the community, and these include the following aspects. Financial resources necessary for building a totally resilient society are not sufficient. Disaster-related interventions, such as pre-disaster and post-disaster mitigation, research, awareness campaigns, and monitoring of hazards among others, require enormous funds. Consequently, this poses a challenge to the government at all levels as well as the economically stressed population that finds it hard to invest in building of resilience due to numerous economic needs. Some hazards are hard to contain due to remoteness of some areas as well as the associated high costs of operations.

Non-uniformity of laws between various states is a stumbling block to the building of resilience. Education and land use policies are prerogatives of local governments. Therefore, the implementation of disaster training in schools as well as uniform building codes and the land use plans is impossible due to differences in state laws. For this reason, the challenge necessitates the need to create uniform disaster legislation at the federal level to harmonize the actions pertaining to the hazards. Moreover, some members of the public express unwillingness to cooperate with the government agencies in the implementation of such laws.

In conclusion, the Hyogo Framework for Action-2005-2015 and the Sendai Framework for Action-2015-2030 are important not only to the United States but also to other countries. The first initiative brought benefits to the U.S. in the development of a legal framework, national platform for disaster issues, the U.S. Multi-Hazard Software, early warning system, the National Environmental Policy Act, in the use of campaigns and education, and the provision of grants to the local governments and communities among others. The second initiative is also significant, but its outcomes are yet to come because it is still at the early stages. However, there are hopes that it will pick from where the first initiative ends and propel the United States to greater heights of resilience.

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