By Dizery Salim
GENEVA, 15 November 2011
– Countries of the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) have pledged to increase private sector engagement in their disaster resilience agenda, in a year when floods and earthquakes have wiped out assets worth billions of dollars across the region.
Four out of ten people live in the 21 APEC countries, producing 55 per cent of the world’s wealth. But because of rapid population growth, unplanned urbanization, and climate change, 70 per cent of disasters take place in Asia – where most APEC countries are located.
In a ministerial statement issued in Hawaii on 11 November, APEC ministers and senior government officials, recalling commitments made the Hyogo Framework for Action – a blueprint for disaster risk reduction universally agreed by the international community in 2005 – promised to develop public-private partnerships within their own economies and report on their progress next year.
“Partnership between the public and private sectors is essential as the private sector owns and operates a great deal of an economy’s critical infrastructure,” said the statement, which was agreed following a high-level policy dialogue on disaster resiliency, convened by the United States, APEC’s host economy in 2011.
They said they recognized the need to incorporate the private sector more substantively in emergency preparedness efforts, based on a “whole of society” approach, and that they would call on their governments to promote financial instruments that help to respond and recover from disasters, as well as to transfer risk.
The UN disaster reduction office, UNISDR, took part in technical discussions held in San Francisco, United States, last September, in preparation for APEC’s high-level dialogue on disaster resiliency.
Jerry Velasquez, head of UNISDR’s Asia Pacific Office, commended the group for devoting ministerial-level attention to the issue, saying Asia could not continue with business as usual.
“After the tsunami in Japan and floods in Thailand, it is urgent to develop a forum or an association with private and public partners to ensure the development of business continuity programmes,” said Mr. Velasquez. “We cannot continue with business as usual, ignoring risks posed by natural hazards. Disaster risk reduction must be fully integrated in all planning and management decisions, and this is true more than ever for the private and public sector.”
Commenting on APEC’s statement, the Chief Executive Officer of Kokusai Kogyo, Sandra Wu, a member of the UNISDR private sector advisory group, said: “It is in our shared interest to pursue economic development that does not create risks, and that we are prepared for new complex risks of the future. The private sector, with a multitude of business models and resources, offers countless possibilities for the benefit of society.”