Third International Conference on Safety and Security 'Resilient citizens in a resilient society' - Address by Margareta Wahlström

Margareta Wahlström with Ben Knapen, Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation of the Netherlands in the Hague.
 
Third International Conference on Safety and Security "Resilient citizens in a resilient society", The Hague, the Netherlands - Address by Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction (check against delivery)

6 February 2012 - Excellency Mr. Opstelten, Minister of Security and Justice, Excellency Mr. Delon, Secretary General for Defence and National Security, Distinguished Representatives of national institutions, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to have been invited to share the UN experience and perspective on risk, risk management and risk reduction on the occasion of the third International Conference on National Safety and Security.

I would like to congratulate the Minister of Security and Justice of the Netherlands, Mr. Opstelten, and the Secretary General for Defence and National Security of France, Mr. Delon, for giving attention to people through the 'Resilient citizens Resilient society' theme of this conference. The Hyogo Framework for Action has a sub --title : "Building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters". How to assess and sustain resilience can be well captured through the framework for action that the Hyogo Framework for Action developed in 2005 based on decades of experience among many experts and people.

Today again, 2011 alone set a new record for disaster loss and damage in economic terms.

The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, floods in Australia, earthquakes in New Zealand and end of the year floods in Thailand and Bangkok, are but some of the most high profile and costly events. The reinsurance company Munich Re recorded 380b USD of global economic losses (2/3 higher than in 2005, the previous record). The damage to business throughout these disasters is unprecedented.

All these events have shown how societies and citizens are resilient -- or not. Each event offer lessons to be learned, and applied or not. The conclusion of a number of countries has been that unless there is renewed focus on the engagement with society and with citizens, citizens taking responsibility for their own safety and resilience, the stability of economic growth and social peace may be in jeopardy.

Disaster and risk trends
Disaster loss and accumulated risk is increasing rapidly in all parts of the world. And this includes Europe. The The Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction released in 2011 (GAR 2011) reports that economic loss risk increase most rapidly particularly in wealthier countries. The GAR 2011 indicates that in OECD countries, hence including the Netherlands and the rest of Europe, the risk of economic losses is now growing faster than their average GDP growth, the risk of economic losses is growing faster than the capacity of these group of developed countries to increase their economic wealth.

It is the 'meeting' of human society with nature and hazards that causes disasters and therefore, the accumulation of risk increased fastest where we humans are most present.

Let me share one set of facts that demonstrates our choices: over the past 30 years the world population increased with 87%. During the same period the population living in flood --prone river basins increased with 114% and in cyclone prone coast-lines with 195%.

The very same areas that hold the greatest economic and human assets and further potential for economic growth are also the most exposed and vulnerable to damage and loss.

While the richest countries accrue the largest financial losses, these also have the most resilience to withstand the loss. The poorest countries in the world suffer the most lasting damage to their development. And the middle-income countries with their very rapid economic growth, but in many cases still uneven institutional strength to manage risk, are accumulating risk for future loss at a high rate.

Disaster risk, climate risk and the risks building up due to our inability to deal with absolute poverty form the risk framework that cause human suffering, increasing economic loss and development damage, but also cause social instability and political impact.

Experience to date from The Hyogo Framework for Action
When in 2005 agreement was reached in Kobe, Japan, to launch the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 "Building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters" (HFA), resilience was central and the so called multi-stakeholder approach central to reducing disaster risks. The HFA was developed based on 40 years of experience by scientists seeking to make society take the right decisions to build resilience and reduce risk. 168 governments and many civil society organisations endorsed the HFA just following the Indian Tsunami of 2005.

The HFA is a flexible action-oriented framework for cooperation, not legally binding for governments or prescriptive in nature. It offers a list of 'things to do' which have been proven to reduce risk and can be implemented by different sectors of society.

The HFA gives priority to institutions, knowledge and early warning, knowing and assessing risk, root causes of risk (development) and preparedness for crisis and disaster response.

The HFA promotes a 'culture of prevention'. Disasters can be substantially reduced if people are well informed and motivated towards a culture of disaster prevention and resilience, which in turn requires the collection, compilation and dissemination of relevant knowledge and information on hazards, vulnerabilities and capacities.

In 2011, a Mid Term Review of the HFA was done. The 'users' --meaning the countries and regional and international organizations that committed to its goals -- assessed its usefulness, the progress made to its mid-term implementation (2010) and documented the challenges encountered to learn lessons which can be applied to make its final 5 years of implementation more effective and cost-efficient. Whilst many positive things were noted by the Mid-Term review, major challenges emerged: 1) the difficulties and obstacles to share and have easy access to information and knowledge, and, 2) the quality and design of institutions and this includes the challenge of coordination within and among institutions and their link with other key stakeholders, including private sector, civil society and science community 3) the need for political lead and commitment 4) how to handle short-term priorities with the medium and long term risk management challenges, and 5) how to reach the local level in countries and ensure that these can lead in their own environment on reducing risk.

The focus and attention on risk in one area may potentially enhance the understanding of risk in other areas. Many countries have long experience of managing risk, such as Netherlands with your dykes -- the basis for your democracy, as one person said a few days ago - and some countries are now investing more in managing risk. There is rightly a considerable focus on hard areas, engineering, technology and land, building quality for example. If resilience of society is our framework however, more focus is needed also on the people and citizens.

Risk identification and recognition
Knowing our vulnerabilities and risks is the basis for any wise investment and effective strategy in disaster prevention and risk reduction.

Multi-hazard vulnerability and risk assessments are therefore effective means that exist to understand the specific factors that put lives and economic assets at risk and the most appropriate coping measures to build resilience starting at the community level. Investing in risk identification is a priority both for climate adaptation and disaster reduction.

Improving the capacity of assessing risk requires systematic accounting of disaster losses and building disaster losses databases which are able to include small and medium scale events -- those events which do not make the headlines of newspapers and media -- but which significantly impact economies as much as the intensive and large scale disasters. The Global Assessment Report on DRR 2011 estimates that economic losses due to small and medium scale disasters, most of which are not recorded in international disaster databases -- account 50% of the total losses. Today, a limited but growing number of countries have such loss databases.

Risk is dynamic and the environment changes and systems for continuous assessment are required. The multi stakeholder, whole of society strategy for resilience is critically important, as it will bring out the wide scope of differing risk-perceptions among the citizens. And thus, create conditions for addressing those in context while also tackling the larger risk scenarios that are very real but not necessarily the perceived 'every--day' risk.

The HFA instruments for risk management
In order to realize an whole of society approach, the HFA encourages the establishment of National Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction. These are multi-stakeholders organizations aimed at improving national coordination in disaster risk management and reduction. Their work encapsulates the knowledge of the research community, the coordination by the Government actors, the community approach of civil society and the engagement of the private sector, as well as the important advocacy work done by the media. Globally, there are 79 National Platforms and today, I would like to congratulate the Netherlands which have recently joined other 20 European countries that established National Platforms.

Under the auspices of the Ministry of Security and Justice, the Dutch National Platform will foster coordination amongst different layers of society. It is this coordination which helps cost effective interventions to be planned and implemented, experiences to be shared across different organizations and stakeholders, and lessons learned to be efficiently used for future policies and programmes.

The role of National Platforms may are also crucial in raising awareness amongst the population. The multi-faceted nature of National Platforms means that they can reach out to various layers of society and contribute to sharing knowledge on and preparing populations against disasters. National participation is key to the effective implementation of disaster risk reduction policies at the local scale.

I recently attended the first National Meeting on Natural Hazards in Bordeaux, France.

This was a broad based dialogue facilitated by the French National Platform which included actors from national to local and community level providing the occasion for taking stock of risks and the tools available to the Government to ensure the safety of the citizens. The big topic was the flood risk and how to protect the country better. Many speakers made it evident that, disaster risk reduction cannot be effective if actions are planned without grassroots level involvement; implementation of programmes which contribute to community resilience needs to be developed and implemented with the communities living in disaster prone areas.

Regional cooperation has also developed into a strong network of cooperating National Platforms joined increasingly by business, science and parliamentarians for example. The Regional dimension supports exchange of practical learning, support in various ways the national efforts. The European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction (EFDRR) was launched in 2009.

This Forum, which meets yearly, allow exchanges amongst National Platforms, HFA focal points and regional/sub regional partners facilitating a coordinated approach in addressing risks at the regional level. During the last EFDRR, held in Skopje in 2011, the added value of National Platforms was highlighted. Within the European Union (EU) the current risk reduction framework is set by the adoption of a European Union Communication which define the contribution of the EU to the HFA "a Community approach to reducing the impact of disasters within the EU" while a second Communication of the EU "a strategy for supporting disaster risk reduction in developing countries" set the guidance for the EU external actions in promoting disaster prevention and risk reduction.

The European Commission has engaged in a number of activities to fully implement the EU directives for the prevention of disasters and in 2010 issued a guidance paper on national risk assessment and mapping for disaster management, which was developed together with the national authorities of the Member States. This constitutes the basis for national risk assessments carried out by Members States which will feed into a 'EU Overview of Risks' and its fully aligned with the priority set by the HFA, which stresses how knowing risks and vulnerabilities of a given community, province and country it is the basis to plan cost-effective prevention and mitigation strategies.

Climate change and DRR
The creation of the HFA knew well that climate is a major driver of risk. The recognition by all climate adaptation instruments, from Nairobi and Bali till Cancun, that disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation are mutually reinforcing and de facto consists of many identical actions -- although with somewhat differing time perspective, is helpful. HFA is recognized as an existing instrument to build on. The integrated policy, program and action framework that is emerging will help galvanize action -- which is urgent. In many countries these are already well integrated.

The summary for the policy makers of the IPCC Special Report on "Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation" (SREX), released in late 2011, provides scientific evidence on the increased risks we are all facing due to the increased frequency of extreme weather events. And it will hopefully be a helpful tool to focus attention on the urgent need for medium and long term risk management planning.

Investing in DRR is not only a mean to adapt to climate change but also a driver for maintaining a sustainable economic growth and development. "Invest Today for a Safer Tomorrow" is the call of the 2009 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki Moon.

More research needed?
Not having a complete knowledge, is no reason for inaction.

The HFA highlights the critical role of the scientific community. And while more knowledge will keep being needed, today's most glaring gap is more often application and use of the already existing knowledge base. Effectively communicating research findings and formulating the applied policy options based on best science and knowledge requires development. The study of and development of decision-making and how to inform policy and decision making positions is given more attention as a contribution to the risk management models but can be efficient only if it is translated into practical actions when public investments are planned and country development strategies defined. The Chair's Summary of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction held in 2011 calls for the active engagement of and support to scientific and technical communities to inform decision making.

For example, WMO and its member states have agreed on the provision of sciencebased climate-related information through the Global Framework for Climate Services was identified as a critical follow-up action. This is an important step forward to start filling the information void. This is yet more evidence that risks cannot be reduced and managed without the cooperation and engagement of all parts of society.

Public-private sector
Partnerships amongst between public and private sector these actors are vital. Today, on the average 15% of all investments in a given country is public investment. Hence the balance is private and business. While regulation is important, it is not possible to reduce risk and reinforce resilience without the full engagement of private and business sectors.

Strengthened partnerships among the private and public sector are powerful opportunities that substantively enhance global efforts to reduce risks, build resilience and rebuild with resilience as well as safeguard precious economic gains.

Citizens, risk awareness and local dimension
Fostering a culture of preparedness is essential to saving lives. During the tragic events that struck Japan last year, early warning system through a number of media demonstrated that more than 90% of the total population of the inundated areas evacuated successfully, thanks to the mixture of measures of drills and awareness activities combined with issued early warnings.

Lives are saved when people can effectively evacuate to safe places, using disaster knowledge and good judgment. Communities can take actions for improving safety and enhancing resilience by producing hazard maps, checking regular evacuation routes, reassessing the safety of evacuation centers, and preparing responsive evacuation procedures that are tailored to their local environment.

1) Japan also teaches us a bit about what builds resilience of people and how preparedness is maintained. A few things; remembrance -- remembering and talking, teaching about past disasters. Early warning and strong public education systems -- part of national education curricula. The 2011 earthquake demonstrated the success of decades of work, but there was for example one anomaly, a school that did not react as all the others. All died - children and teacher. Why this happened is important to know for the future.

2) Communities, the local. We often speak loosely about communities. Often without recognizing how much 'communities' change and continue to change. Is it possible to apply the same education and awareness outreach to a neighbourhood in a 15 million inhabitant city, a 200.000 city and a rural community? The likely answer is no. But the reality is that not enough attentions and study is given to understand modern communities and how these function socially. Essential to understand how resilience is reinforced in such a context.

3) Trust. A couple of years ago, I read a poll in Europe. The question was who the citizens trust. A good evidence of the diversity of the sources that people seek information and reassurance from. Each single major disaster in the past decade has shown the gap between citizens trust in information given. And this is a major challenge for effective risk management. The 'second-guessing' going on in the public space can be helpful but also damaging. The trust gap can only be bridged by mutual action.

4) The short term risk perception versus the medium and long term risk. What really triggers action by citizens and how a social demand for safety can be positively nurtured, can very likely be better know through systematic exchange and learning.

The reality is that, without proper risk reduction awareness or policies and measures in place by national and local governments, and with more population settling in exposed and high-risk areas and climate change expected to further increase our exposure, we are poised for disasters - large, medium and small -that will increasingly affect sustainability and development gains around the world in the coming years and decades.

It is with this in mind that UNISDR engages Cities and their populations to build a culture of risk. Cities today are major engines of economic opportunity, education, cultural life and urban identity is important. In 2010 we launched the campaign Making Cities Resilient- My city is getting ready! with the objective to actively enroll city leaders, local government and city councils as an integral and active part of building the resilience of their urban communities.

The campaign objective is not only to promote awareness among citizens of the benefits of public investment in reducing disaster risk, and create a citizen demand driven environment for these investment, but also to stimulate sharing of experiences and draw lessons from cities around the world which already joined the campaign. To date, 376 cities have joined the campaign in Europe.

Eight out of the ten of the world's most populous cities are at risk of being severely affected by an earthquake, whereas six out of ten are vulnerable to storm surge and tsunami waves. According to the World Bank, today, 370 million people live in earthquake prone cities.

The Netherlands do not yet have any Cities enrolled on this Campaign. I do hope that soon, Dutch mayors and local governments will join our campaign and commit to its ten essential action points aimed at building a culture of safety and risk prevention among their communities

The Next Years
Later this year the Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Rio+20 as we call it, will take stock of 20 years of work for sustainable development. Risk reduction has been identified as one of the seven priorities under the "emerging topics" to be considered at the Rio Conference.

This Conference is expected to deliver a new commitment on an inclusive, sustainable development model that does preserve the resources and the basis for a continued growth and our ability to address the global challenge of poverty. We are hoping that Rio will contribute and reiterate how risk reduction in an important component of sustainable developments to a culture and practice of resilience to disasters.

The Global Platform 2011 launched a call for the formulation of a "Post-Hyogo Framework" to provide guidance beyond 2015 on coordinated and integrated DRR and CCA regional and national actions. The "post-HFA" plan should be "clearly integrated in the Post- MDGs as building resilience through reducing disaster risk, making our infrastructure climate and disaster resilient, investing in viable urban planning, are the basis for any sustainable and long-lasting development action.

Safety and security of citizens is -- in the first place -- responsibility of the national governments and institutions, nonetheless it is also "everybody's business", all of us have a role to play in prevention and risk reduction either we work as officer in a public institution, a civil society organization, or a private company. Each citizen has a role and responsibilities for his own safety, the safety of his/her household and his/her community and each citizen should be well aware of his right to ask accountable institutions and policy makers that from the community to the national level take all the necessary action to mitigate the risk of disasters and invest in prevention and risk reduction today for a safer tomorrow.

Your work will contribute to maintaining and increasing the momentum and focus on climate and disaster risks as threats to development and, most importantly, how to address these challenges. I wish you a productive dialogue over the next two days and a successful meeting.

Thank you.
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