Mongolia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dendev Terbishdagva greets UNISDR’s Asia Pacific Head Feng Min Kan. (Photo: Andy McElroy/UNISDR)
By Andy McElroy
ULAN BATAAR, 8 May 2014
– Mongolia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dendev Terbishdagva today identified the pressing need to address escalating direct losses from disasters as vital to his country’s ambitions for sustainable development.
“Since implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action there has been some success in reducing the mortality rate from disasters but a new approach has to be considered because of the increasing economic and ecological losses we are experiencing,” Deputy Prime Minister Terbishdagva said.
“Within the Hyogo Framework the main principle is clear: if you invest one dollar on prevention ahead of disasters it is worth ten dollars after a disaster. Prevention is very important.”
Mr. Terbishdagva outlined Mongolia’s progress over the past decade: the amalgamation of disparate departments into one National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), which reports directly to him, and a commitment to treat disaster risk reduction as a development issue.
“We have continued to reform the legal environment aimed at mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into our development policies,” the Deputy Prime Minister said. As part of this process, the Government is tabling updated disaster protection and fire safety laws for consideration by parliament.
“The world has identified the next ten years as crucial for international development and disaster risk frameworks and we are determined to adapt and mainstream these policies within our own national frameworks.”
Mr. Terbishdagva identified local capacity as a key constraint but said NEMA and government ministries were focusing their efforts on this area. To mark NEMA’s 10th anniversary in June, the government is commissioning a television series to highlight how community capacity and responsibility prevents and reduces disaster risk.
He called on the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) to expand its partnership with Mongolia to help bridge this gap in local capacity.
The Head of UNISDR in Asia Pacific, Ms Feng Min Kan, pledged support and praised the “paradigm shift” in thinking and action: “Through such strong leadership and vision Mongolia is not just focusing on disaster response but is striving to achieve disaster risk sensitive development to protect its economic growth.”
Deputy Prime Minister Terbishdagva’s focus on disaster losses echoes UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s warning at the launch of the 2013 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction that “economic losses from disasters are out of control”.
Mongolia’s population of 2.8 million people is spread over a vast territory of 1,564,116 sq kms, two and a half times the size of France. About 40 percent live in the capital Ulan Bataar which continues to absorb a huge influx of migrants from the countryside. In so doing the city is grappling to address the principal drivers of disaster risk: including the need for stronger and enforceable urban planning, poverty reduction and environmental protection.
Mongolia experiences many recurrent, localized disasters as well as occasional severe disasters – mainly dzud (harsh winters that also hit animal food supplies), drought, steppe forest fires, settlement fires and animal disease – all of which the country’s herder populations are particularly vulnerable to. City inhabitants also suffer from severe winter air pollution.