Promoting Asia-European partnerships in disaster management including social mobilization

National Assembly of Lao PDR.
 
7th meeting of Asia-European Parliamentarian Partnership, Vientienne, Lao PDR - Welcome Address by Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction (check against delivery)

Distinguished Co-Chairs,
Excellencies, Members of Parliament,

I am honored to have been invited to address the Asia - European Parliamentarian Partnership in your meeting today.

Let me first appreciate the Asia -- European Partnership for recognizing and making it a priority for its cooperation -- the threat that increasing frequency and severity of disasters poses to countries' development gains today.

I would also like to congratulate and appreciate the National Assembly of Lao PDR for hosting this important partnership meeting among legislators from the tow regions. Disaster risk reduction including social participation is topical in both Asia and Europe as the two regions occupy positions one and three on the list of economic losses from disaster impacts.

That you make disaster management and disaster risk reduction central in your dialogue to strengthen partnership for sustainable development - an important contribution to reinforce the momentum for policy development and implementation of the Outcome of the UN Conference on sustainable development, held in Rio in June 2012.

Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation is a pressing imperative as all nations experience fast increasing disaster losses and protection of hard-worn development gains for today and tomorrow is critical center of sustainable development.

The Hyogo Framework for Action has become a common framework for disaster risk reduction and created common language and actions.

Yet, an insight shared by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank evaluations is that the biggest gap in disaster risk reduction is between what the governments know and do. This gap is biggest in Asia. On the other hand, Asia is also one of the leading regions to take actions.

This is why disaster risk management should be a critical action area in the Asia -- European Partnership.

It is not necessary to accept continued increase of disaster losses. But the 2011 losses in Asia represent 80% of the global losses worth $ 366 billion. Almost 90 per cent were attributed to the two major disasters in Japan and Thailand.

In Europe, the past ten years have recorded losses worth 13,4 billion and only in 2010 Europe experienced the biggest increase of losses -- a 18,2% increase compared to the ten-year average. After Americas and Asia, Europe is number three on the valued of direct losses.

Focus on the economics of disasters has demonstrated the benefits of prevention. But there is also human aspect. Disasters undermine people's activities as well as government development efforts. This is particularly true for localized and small disasters that proportionately hit the poor communities the hardest.

Today, still few governments consistently collect data on disaster losses. And the data collected only shows the public sector and some business sector losses. Who actually pays for disasters -- to rebuild houses and recover livelihoods-- is an area that is still not well researched. The loss of potential development is not accounted. Global figures of disaster losses are only the tip of the iceberg.

Asia and Europe includes some large economies and wealthy countries. But in Asia -- we also have some Least Developed Economies as well as some of the world's fastest growing economies. While earthquake in Japan and floods in Thailand represent enormous values lost, jobs lost and impacts on the world economy, let us not ignore that the disasters that affect countries and people with small and non diversified economies and many poor people are devastating blows that create long term impact on poverty, increase debt burdens and have impact on education and health opportunities. Disasters are more than "events". These are factors that determine the success and viability of countries development plans.

What are the reasons behind the seeming increase in disaster risk and economic losses? First, development itself generates (new) risks. The fast growing infrastructure, exploitation of natural resources, urbanization all generate wealth and property but unless done with respect for risks, respecting quality standards and code, land use planning rules, will all generate more risks and more disaster events, under the impacts of geo and hydrological hazards. The growing work population is expanding into fragile areas that are exploited and often suffer long term damage. Food security and climate change are causing concerns on how to address.

A lot can be done to mitigate disaster risk of developmental activities but that takes time. We have the knowledge but require policies that are strong on what can be done.

The International Panel for Climate Change Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) underlines a compelling nexus: climate change will increase hydro climatic hazards but it is the development practices that increase disaster risk by exposing people and assets to the hazards at a faster rate than reducing vulnerabilities. It is to be expected that the IPCC 5th Report in 2014 will further underline these connections. However, this is not about future events. It happens now, it has happened for decades.

A few figures to elaborate this point

From 1970 to 2010, population in Asia and the Pacific almost doubled from 2.2 to 4.2 billion. In the same period, the average number of people exposed to yearly flooding more than doubled from 29.5 to 63.8 million and populations resident in cyclone-prone areas grew from 72 to more than 120 million people. Disaster losses since 1980 increased by 16 times while GDP per capita grew only by 13 times. This means the rate of losing wealth was faster than generating wealth.

Economic loss risk due to floods is increasing faster in countries categorized as high income or belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development than in other geographic and income regions and groups. And although GDP exposure to floods is increasing faster than GDP per capita in all regions, the risk of economic damage is only growing faster than GDP per capita in high income countries. This explains the trend we see in Europe as well.

The convergence of environmental, socioeconomic as well as technological risks requires addressing the root causes of risk and strengthening integrated, whole of society risk management. The Mid-term Review of the Hyogo Framework for Action in 2011 offers some clear principles: multi-stakeholder action and partnership, importance of education and public awareness, evidence that improved early warning and preparedness saves lives and economic assts, that disasters are developmental challenges and need to be addressed as such, that managing a process to mitigate and prevent requires clear governance structures that involve communities.

The challenges are common and need to be at the highest level to mobilize all segments of the society. But often, it is not an influential agenda. Coordination is not sufficient. There is not enough process to share information, not that we don't have enough information to share. Much more can be done to promote lateral exchanges between countries and the use of science and technologies.

This is also the focus of your discussion today -- social mobilization for disaster risk management.

The HFA and disaster risk reduction have been well captured in the final documents of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development that took place in Rio: Link disaster risk reduction to sustainable development -- accelerate the implementation of the HFA in the context of sustainable development; - recognize that adequate, timely and predictable resources for disaster risk reduction to enhance resilience of cities and communities is needed; - that disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation should be in integrated into public and private investments; - undertaking of comprehensive risk assessments and strengthening disaster risk reduction instruments. Disaster risk reduction has been identified as an important tool for reducing the impact of climate change in poor countries and communities and a key element of the Post-2015 Framework for Sustainable Development in order to achieve a resilient and sustainable future.

In 2005, as the HFA was endorsed, countries asked that a reporting/monitoring system for self assessment should be created. The HFA Monitor today receives reports from countries that report on their progress in implementation of the HFA. 133 countries have engaged to date and we hope that even more will engage now in the third reporting cycle. The purpose of the reports is of course to allow countries to create a baseline for their planning. The intention is the reporting should engage all stakeholders. This objective is achieved in some countries and in many not achieved.

The reports indicate major progress in strengthening the institutional and legislative arrangements, early warning and disaster preparedness. But reports also note as the major challenge the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction, prevention into national budgets, into the development planning and sectoral planning. Slow progress on risk assessment and low scores, in fact on the gender aspects of the HFA implementation.

'National Platforms for disaster risk reduction' have been recommended as an important mechanism for national concertation, coordination and advocacy. Today 89 National Platforms have been recorded. These vary in composition and achievements. On the requests of the National Platforms, we have now started a review of the National Platforms, lead by a steering group of National Platforms that will be recommending steps forward to make these mechanisms more effective.

All regions now also conduct regional meetings. Depending on the characteristics of the region, these are also still differing from one from the other. Asia has a strong Ministerial conference, and Europe today is meeting in a technical forum for the HFA national focal points and National Platforms. Strongly supported by their main regional organizations (Council of Europe and the EU/EC) and others. Globally, we meet every two years in the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which is a unique multi-stakeholder forum where we gather Governments, local governments, Parliamentarians, science community, business and private sector, children and young people organizations, NGOs and UN, and the outcome of our meeting leverages progress and influences policy nationally and globally.

Parliamentarians' role in policy and legislation development and approval, oversight and creating social demand through interaction with people, have been a driving force for this progress in many countries, as well as at regional and global levels.

Our collective efforts in disaster risk reduction have thus far been insufficient to get ahead of the growing trend of disaster risk.

Developing policy and legislation is only the first step. Translating the policies into right investment decisions and an implementation that is inclusive, accountable and transparent is harder.

Progress in reducing disaster risk at the local level is lagging behind due to lack of appropriate instruments and resources. Governments and international organizations face with challenges in reaching out to communities and in ensuring that public policies, pre-planned recovery practices positively impacts people' lives and is sustained.

The year of 2015 is when a new framework for disaster risk reduction, for the next 10 years or 20 years needs to be developed. I invite Members of the Parliament to contribute to the development of this framework, and also the Post Millennium Development Goals framework. After Rio, there has been a strong language for disaster risk reduction in development.

I recommend Members of the Parliament to

* Raise awareness, lead in changing practices and support Governments to integrate disaster risk reduction into national and sectoral plans, which is important for integrated actions.
* Make the economic case for disaster risk reduction; better measure the success and progress in disaster risk reduction, using well-defined targets and indicators;
* Make disaster risk reduction gender-sensitive. The national HFA reports highlight that gender issue is the lowest indicator. Parliamentarians can help improve this, allowing equal and active participation and contribution of men and women in building resilient future.

Next week, on October 12th, the world will commemorate the 2012 International Day for Disaster Reduction with the theme on mobilizing women and young girls for disaster risk reduction. In 2011, the focus on was children and young people and next year that will be on the elderly. The aim is to call for everybody to "Step Up" to reduce disaster risk and build resilient societies

With decades of efforts in reducing disaster risk, the time may be ripe now to consider a set of principles and values for disaster risk reduction for the Post 2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Principles and values will scale up disaster risk reduction efforts in a responsible manner and contribute to meaningful cooperation that will boost sustainable development efforts.

An in pursing these matters, the importance of international and regional cooperation, the power of Parliamentarians in cooperating nationally, regionally and internationally is well recognized and I encourage you to consider contributing to also the early existing network of Parliamentarians for Disaster Risk Reduction. Your global organization, IPU has also taken on this agenda as an important development agenda.

The United Nations stand ready to support Members of Parliament.

Thank you.
The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will take place in 2015 The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will take place in 2015.
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