District of North Van wins prestigious UN award
On January 19, 2005, Eliza Win Mun Kuttner was killed when a landslide swept down an embankment in North Vancouver’s Berkley-Riverside neighbourhood, taking two houses with it.
A coroner’s report later said that her death could have been prevented.
The District of North Vancouver took the recommendations of the coroner to heart and set about reducing the risk of such a tragedy from happening again.
This week, the United Nations applauded the district’s efforts by naming it the first Canadian recipient of the prestigious United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The award is given to an individual or organization for outstanding and internationally recognized action that contributes to building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters.
The award was presented on May 12 during the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva, Switzerland and it is the first time that a Canadian community has received this award. The district shares the award with two other cities: San Francisco (Philippines) and Santa Fe (Argentina).
Mayor Richard Walton attended the awards ceremony on behalf of the district.
“This international recognition is testament to the ongoing work being done by not only the professional staff who serve the citizens of North Vancouver District, but also the leaders and many volunteers of the North Shore Emergency Management Office, and all of the agencies dedicated to the public safety needs of their community,” said Walton. “This United Nations acknowledgement is something our entire community can take pride in. The work, however, is ongoing as we continue to seek best practices and learn from the experience of communities around the world.”
The award winners were chosen from among 25 nominees by an independent jury of four eminent disaster risk reduction experts.
Sustainable hazard risk management and disaster risk reduction initiatives are embedded in all District departments – from planning and land-use through to engineering and recreation.
The district has also incorporated risk-reduction criteria into its official community plan, strategic planning, and development permitting processes, and has instituted early warning systems for landslides and debris flows. In the fields of science, technology and engineering, the district has been an innovative leader, advancing disaster risk reduction with partners including municipal government, universities and federal government departments.
The jury for the Sasakawa Award says the district “demonstrates capacity for challenging, absorbing and producing technology, traditional knowledge, new knowledge and products, and innovative practices.”
Vic Toews, Canada’s minister of public safety, said, “North Vancouver is setting a high standard for communities across Canada, and has become a model at engaging municipal and federal governments and the private sector in the promotion of a resilient approach to disaster risk reduction.”