Kandalama, Sri Lanka

Friday 22 July 2011

In July Richard was Co-Chair of a major international conference on the development of societal resilience to natural and human induced disasters.

The International Conference on Building Resilience welcomed over 65 international and 45 Sri Lankan academics, practitioners, professionals and policy makers concerned with interdisciplinary approaches to disaster risk reduction, and the development of sustainable communities and cities. The conference had a particular focus on the challenges associated with reconstruction of communities in a post-war environment.

The conference programme incorporated keynote addresses by respected government officials, leading industrialists and implementers, and distinguished local and international academics.

The Chief Guest, Minister of External Affairs, Hon Professor G L Peries, and Guest of Honour, Mrs Marina Mohamed, Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management Sri Lanka, welcomed delegates and provided an important policy context for the subsequent debate, highlighting national priorities and action plans. They also established an expectation that the conference will serve as an impetus for further action in helping Sri Lanka to tackle the challenge of disaster risk.

The conference programme featured five keynote addresses by leading industrialists and academics:

  • Dakshitha Thalgodapitiya, CEO Chamber of Construction Industry Sri Lanka;
  • Dr Ananda Mallawatantri, Environment, Energy and Disaster Risk Management, United Nations Development Programme, Sri Lanka;
  • Professor Peter Barrett, Professor of Management in Property and Construction at University of Salford, UK;
  • Professor John Fein, Professor of Sustainability in the Innovation Leadership programme of RMIT University, Australia;
  • Professor Terrence Fernando, Director of the Future Workspaces Research Centre, University of Salford, UK.

These keynote addresses provided a local and global perspective and vision for disaster resilience research and practice.

The conference also included the publication and presentation of 109 research articles and practice notes that had been subject to double blind peer review by a distinguished international scientific committee. All accepted papers were published in the conference proceedings. Selected papers will also be published in a special issue of the International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, by Emerald Publishing.

The conference was organised by the Centre for Disaster Resilience, School of the Built Environment, University of Salford, UK and RMIT University, Australia, in association with:

  • UNDP Sri Lanka and the Disaster Management Center,
  • Ministry of Disaster Management,
  • Central Environmental Authority
  • Ministry of Environment.

The local organisers and hosts were Chamber of Construction Industry Sri Lanka, University of Moratuwa, University of Peradeniya, and University of Colombo.

The Conference was chaired by Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga and I, from the Centre for Disaster Resilience, University of Salford, UK.

The conference outcomes are being used to support the 2010-2011 United Nations World Disaster Reduction campaign ‘Making Cities Resilient’, which addresses issues of local governance and urban risk while drawing upon previous ISDR Campaigns on safer schools and hospitals, as well as on the sustainable urbanisations principles developed in the UN-Habitat World Urban campaign 2009-2013.

The Centre for Disaster Resilience, University of Salford, UK is offering its support to the Ministry of Disaster Management with a view to incorporating the conference outcomes in the local government joint action plan to tackle hazard risk in Sri Lanka, which was launched in July 2011.

The plan identifies key priority activities that follow the 'Ten Essentials' of the ‘Making Cities Resilient’ campaign. The action plan will be implemented in coordination with the Ministry of Disaster Management and the Ministry of Local Government & Provincial Council.