Yeb Saño discusses opportunities for resilient recovery at a transitional shelter site with Tacloban Mayor Mr Alfred Romualdez and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Ms Margareta Wahlström.
By Andy McElroy
TACLOBAN, 6 March 2014 – The Philippines Climate Change Commissioner, Yeb Saño, believes the post-2015 international framework for disaster risk reduction will grasp the opportunity to “think and act differently”.
Mr. Saño, whose emotional speech at the recent UN climate change conference in Warsaw caught the world’s attention after Typhoon Haiyan devastated large parts of his country, is optimistic that the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, to be held in Sendai, Japan, in March 2015, will propel efforts to build community and national resilience to disasters.
UNISDR is facilitating worldwide consultations on a new agreement on disaster risk reduction to succeed the current Hyogo Framework for Action which was adopted at the last world conference in 2005 in Kobe, Japan.
Speaking on a return visit to his home town of Tacloban which bore the brunt of the typhoon known as Yolanda in the Philippines, Mr Saño said: “When the world convenes in Sendai to reflect on lessons we have learned and the gains we have made, I think it will be crucial for the whole world to come to a realisation that we are confronting a challenge that is always uphill.
“This merits different thinking and merits actions that will allow us to surmount this challenge so that we take more steps forward than backwards.
“The new Hyogo Framework must take into account the reality of climate change which is very important. Equally important is for countries to put a real stake into the implementation of the actions we would like to see.”
Mr Saño said the international system retained the ability to provide relevant and global solutions. “I always look at the situation in a way that sees the glass half full rather than half empty because I truly believe that the multilateral process is the best option we have for solving all these global problems, including climate change no less.
“It is important that we continue to bring solutions within this framework and this setting of the United Nations otherwise the alternative is something that can be very dangerous for all of us. We need to continue the dialogue and action involving all nations. This is the best solution to climate change.”
After a day touring his home city, Mr Saño noted significant signs of recovery in the weeks since his previous visit but sounded a note of caution.
“It’s always an emotional visit. One always wonders whether we are recovering fast enough and in the right way. But what we see is a vast improvement and that is very encouraging,” he said.
“However, when we know the nuances of how we have to reduce risks from disasters, it is not about bringing things back to the normal – the very way they were – because the way things were brought people into the kind of situation that they experienced during Yolanda.
“So every time I see people in Tacloban trying to get back on their feet there is this sense of uncertainty whether this is going where we want it to go.”
Mr Saño recalled his speech in Warsaw and the connection it made with people around the world. “There is a human side to all of the things we think are so esoteric, discussing climate change in a technical way, a political way. When things like Yolanda happen it just brings in the human experience in a very tangible way for the whole world so I would like to believe the speech translated and resonated that way,” he said.