Dr. Ki-Hwan Li, Administrator of Korea's National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), gives opening remarks for a forum on "Building Disaster Resilience for Aid Effectiveness" (Credit: NEMA)
BUSAN, 30 November 2011
- UN disaster risk reduction chief Margareta Wahlström speaking at the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Republic of Korea, said that managing risk is crucial to safeguard investments in poverty-stricken Africa and Asia, where countries can lose as much as a fifth of their GDP to disasters each year.
She said aid helps to transform the lives of millions each year and cited the example of the host country, the Republic of Korea which rose from a poor nation earning less than $100 per capita per day, to become one of the world’s richest countries and an aid donor contributing over $1.2 billion in development assistance worldwide.
Former foreign minister for the Republic of Korea, Yoo Chong-Ha, recalled the country’s post-war years when a Swedish hospital ship was sent to his country to provide medical assistance. Over time, Sweden’s contribution became the cornerstone of a national medical institute that still serves the country.
But other aid recipients – prone to disasters, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, droughts and cyclones – are taking longer to climb out of poverty.
“The costs of disasters are borne by developing countries with no help from the international community. With annual losses of up to 20 per cent of their gross domestic product, countries often expend their entire development budget to address disaster impacts,” said Wahlström.
“Disaster risk reduction is not just ‘another thing to do.’ It is something you must do to make the other things work.”
“Disaster costs are not limited to damaged infrastructure,” noted Margaret Biggs, President of the Canadian International Development Agency, whose country has set aside $5 billion in aid for the 2010-2011 budget year.
“Disasters hurt children and the damage can be permanent and long-lasting. In turn, it puts the long-term development of countries at risk,” said Biggs.
International financial institutions like the World Bank are working hard to integrate disaster prevention into their development and humanitarian work, while also improving coordination amongst the different parties involved.
According to Axel van Trotsenburg, the World Bank’s Vice President for Concessional Finance and Partnerships, who is responsible for 1,100 trust funds: “We are looking at the coordination between development and humanitarian actors, and also at the coordination between donors. We have a long way to go.”
All were speaking at a Forum session on building resilience, organized by the UNISDR, the World Bank and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with the support of the Republic of Korea’s Red Cross and Ministry of Public Administration and Security.
Earlier, at the official opening ceremony on Tuesday, President Lee Myung-bak reiterated the Republic of Korea's commitment to sharing its economic development experience to help narrow the gap between rich and poor nations when he attends an international aid conference this week. He pointed out that the gap between rich and poor nations is a stumbling block to co-prosperity of humankind.
In recent years, Seoul has tried to increase aid to developing nations as it seeks to play greater roles in the international community. The country has pledged to nearly triple its official development assistance to about $3 billion by 2015.
About 3,000 people from 160 countries, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, attended the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness which opened yesterday in the port city of Busan and ends tomorrow.
It is the world's biggest forum on development assistance.