Opening remarks by Margareta Wahlström, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, at the 5th Africa Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction
Excellencies, dear colleagues,
We have an important opportunity in 2015. Countries around the world are set to agree a post 2015 framework for disaster risk reduction, the sustainable development goals and the climate change agreements.
If we get these three international agreements right, if we strengthen and align our institutions, policies and actions, we can set the course for a resilient future with economic growth that is sustainable and equitable. To miss this opportunity may very well bring disastrous results. Your work here this week is the work of reducing disaster risk.
The 5th African regional platform is an opportunity for countries to shape an actionable policy agenda that supports economic development, attracts investment and reduces losses from disasters.
The risk profile of many African countries is characterized by high rates of poverty; dynamic and rapid urbanization, a large unemployed youth population, and insufficient infrastructure to unlock fully the human and economic potential of many countries.
- While African countries have some of the highest GDP growth rates in the world, inequality in African cities ranks among the highest as well.
- In 2010, the share of the African urban population was about 36% and is projected to increase to 60% by 2050. Already - there are an estimated 320 coastal cities with populations over 100,000 people.
- With rising sea-levels, North African cities of Alexandria, Casablanca and Tunis could each face cumulative losses of more than $1 billion by the year 2030 if they don’t act to strengthen strategies for natural disaster prevention and climate change adaptation.
- Land degradation is pervasive - some have estimated that 4 million hectares of Africa's forests are being deforested or degraded annually, largely in West Africa. Over 400 million people live in vulnerable dry- lands of Africa and the majority of them are the rural poor.
- Drought continues to haunt sub-Saharan Africa. We all recall that 250,000 or more people died in the famine of two years ago. Now again in recent weeks reports are emerging that a combination of failed rains, conflict and high food prices are putting some two million people at risk.
Each country in this Africa has its unique risk profile. But there are commonalities as well - and cooperation across the continent, and globally, can support national efforts to reduce disaster risk. We will hear throughout the week of the progress made through regional and sub-regional cooperation.
At the same time, local government and businesses are looking to accelerate and scale up action. Science and technology are supporting decision makers and action; and the men, women and youth of our communities are demonstrating the contributions they can make to building resilience.
I would like to extend a special word of appreciation to the government of Nigeria and our host the National Emergency Management Agency for their support to this important gathering despite the ongoing concerns over terrorism and the kidnappings that have shocked the nation and the world.
The conference supports the #BringOurGirlsHome campaign. It is unacceptable that anyone should be targeted for seeking an education which will equip them to play a full role in society.
During this week, let us ask ourselves, what can a global framework do to help us overcome the main challenges to our work? It can't list every sphere of action in detail; in fact, the Hyogo Framework for Action itself was extensive in identifying wide-ranging work that can reduce disaster risk.
At its sixty-eighth session, the UN General Assembly stressed the importance of regional consultation in the framework of the preparatory process in order to promote broad participation in the Third UN World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction, hosted by the Government of Japan in Sendai City in March 2015.
At this, the 5th African Regional Platform, let us consider the areas where Africa can take the lead and show the way for other regions as well – in addressing drought, land degradation and rapid urbanisation.
We have an important opportunity to set the course for a resilient future, that the youth here and across the continent, may one day be able to thank us for.