Mr. Ribeiro, Beira is the winner of the 2012 RISK award. What does that mean to the city and to Mozambique?
It's great to have been selected from so many good proposals. The INGC, GIZ and IP Consult are long-standing partners. Our aim is to optimise disaster management and establish best-practice examples. We have already acquired two years' experience from our work in the capital, Maputo, and other cities. The current objective is to establish an easy-to-replicate model in Beira. In other words, we regard the RISK Award more or less as confirmation of the success of our endeavours. That success is a real boost, and a good thing for risk management throughout Mozambique as a whole.
Why is disaster management so crucial to your country?
Mozambique is highly vulnerable to extreme weather events. Some 800 people lost their lives during major flooding in 2000. There have been floods on a number of rivers, and notably the Zambezi, every year since 2007. That sort of frequency was previously unheard of. There are also more and more cyclones and Mozambique now suffers a tropical storm almost every year, not to mention the droughts that threaten our food supply. The ideal solution would be a complete overhaul of our national risk management, not least with the impact of climate change increasingly making itself felt. But that option is precluded by financial constraints. The most viable alternative is to set up as many local committees as possible. That gets down to grass roots level, so that even in hard times success is possible throughout the country as a whole.
What do you consider to be the cornerstones of successful risk prevention?
The main factor is the head of state. Success is only possible if the president has the clear political will to promote risk prevention. Our President, Armando Emílio Guebuza, subscribes to the motto: "Prevention is better than cure". If the relevant institutions and society apply the message in practice, that will be a big step forward. The second success factor is that decisions on frameworks are centralised (top-down) and decision-making on the ground is flexible and tailor-made for the committees (bottom-up). Of course, risk management can only function as part of development policy. Risk prevention is a complementary part of poverty eradication, infrastructure improvements and other objectives. This is an area where we, in Mozambique, are on the right track.
CB, 28 August 2012