Closing statement by Dr. Robert Glasser at the UNISDR Science and Technology Conference

Dr. Robert Glasser, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, addresses the UNISDR Science and Technology Conference (Photo: UNISDR/Fabio Chironi)

UNISDR Science and Technology Conference on the Implementation
of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030

27-29 January 2016
Geneva International Conference Centre

Closing Statement (as prepared for delivery)

Dr. Robert Glasser,
Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction


Distinguished delegates, Ladies and gentlemen,

It is has been a pleasure to see such a sustained level of focused energy from such a large group – over 700 participants joined the UNISDR Science and Technology Conference on the Implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

First of all, I’d like to thank the moderators and rapporteurs for their excellent summaries of the work streams and the side events.

I’d like to take a few minutes to reflect on where these past three days (and past several months of preparatory work) have brought us.

We heard how the science and technology of disaster risk reduction is strategically situated to contribute to all of the international agreements concluded in 2015 – including the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreements on climate change – which was described as an instrument for “Planetary Risk Management”.

We were also reminded of how the science of disaster risk reduction can also support some of the important work underway in 2016 --- the World Humanitarian Summit and Habitat III.

Throughout the three days, the working groups provided fresh and strategic thinking about how to meet the expectations that Governments set out in Sendai. Your work and suggestions also reinforced the importance of expanding ownership and support to the Science and Technology Partnership and Road Map. I would like to outline just a few strategic points that I have heard.

Implementation of the Sendai Framework will rely on integrated and multi-disciplinary research that bridges social and natural sciences and uses both quantitative and qualitative data.

It will rely on applied science that connects the macro to the micro – from earth observations to crowd-sourcing risk and exposure information from communities.

Users must be included in the earliest stages of developing research and technology including through improved dialogues with citizen groups and the use of scenarios that make science sensible to decision-makers and the general public. Technology can help achieve wonderful things, but its not enough by itself; how human interact with and react to technology is important to consider.

Sustainable funding for long-term process needs to be a strategic priority and we need to build on examples that have proven effective, including through incentives and structured cooperation with the commercial sector.

The scientific and technical community needs to be mobilized to design and standardize metrics and methodologies to support planning and monitoring implementation. These processes take time and should begin urgently.

We can make rapid progress in understanding and managing risk through adopting a multi-hazard perspective that introduces important lessons from public health and technological hazards, for instance.

 Over 65 institutions have now indicated their interest in joining the Partnership. As a first step, I encourage others to signal their interest through the end of February 2016.

The Conference also heard some excellent examples of how Partners have progressed in their efforts to support the scientific and technological provisions of the Sendai Framework.

Several partners updated the Conference on progress on commitments made in Sendai last year. For example:

Partners involved in Earth Observation (EO) technologies committed to launch a partnership to respond to the requirements of the disaster risk reduction community. Examples from UN and space agencies were given on the usefulness and availability of space technology to understand and map risk and inform preparedness strategies.

The European Commission committed to launch a Disaster Risk Management Knowledge Centre. This centre was launched on September 2015 and it is working as a knowledge hub of scientific centres to improve the science-policy interface, ensure a thorough transfer of research outputs to end-users, identify research needs and gaps, and provide Member States with technical advice for assessment of risk and risk management.

The International Consortium on landslides launched a partnership 2015-2025 for global promotion of understanding and reducing landslide disaster risk. 15 world centres of excellence on landslide risk reduction are part of this partnership for project implementation.

The Government of France announced a global climate resilience early warning system initiative. In Paris at COP-21 a Trust fund was launched in partnership with Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, and as operating agencies: UNISDR, WMO and World Bank/GFDRR. This commitment was reiterated at the Conference, which will contribute to the implementation of a key Sendai Framework target.

This week the conference heard of how partners, such as the ISO and IEC, are screening their own work streams and research agendas in light of the Sendai Framework and looking specifically at potential commitments in cooperation in capacity building among academic institutions, partnerships to set international standards and to strengthen the engagement of science in national platforms for disaster risk reduction.

I want to acknowledge the large number of science and technology projects coordinated by institutions in Japan to support the implementation of the Sendai Framework.

I am also very pleased to announce that The Young Scientists Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction was launched at this conference by the UN Major Group for Children and Youth. It sets out an intergenerational science agenda that shows the ambition of youth in the long term engagement n implementation of the Sendai Framework.

On the Science and Technology Road Map for the Implementation of the Sendai Framework. The working groups have produced very concrete and nuanced suggestions for the Roadmap. I have agreed with the organizing partners that it is important that these be considered carefully and that we send revised Road Map out to participants to make sure that we have captured accurately and that the Road Map is truly owned by the Partnership and seen as a tool for the wider scientific and technical communities.

Given the rich inputs, I have asked, and the organizing partners have agreed, to consolidate the suggestions and recommendations from the four work streams and the side events into a revised Road Map. The secretariat and the organizing partners will complete this revised Road Map over the next two weeks.

UNISDR will then post the revised version online on the conference website and send to conference participants in the week 8th of February. Conference participants will have until the end of February for final validation. I believe it is important that we complete the Road Map and distribute to the world by the first of March 2016. I also encourage you to use this last round as an opportunity to share the Road Map among your networks for awareness raising and to attracting new potential partners.

To take this agenda forward, I also intend to work closely with the UNISDR Science and Technology Advisory Group. In light of discussions at this conference, the STAG should be revised to be interdisciplinary, regionally diverse in its membership and directly engaging in partnerships for implementation of the Road Map and the Sendai Framework.

I look forward to seeing many of you in the weeks and months ahead, including at International Conference on the Implementation of the Health Aspects in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030 to be held in Bangkok on 10-11 March 2016, co-hosted by the Government of Thailand, UNISDR and the WHO.

The Open Ended Intergovernmental Expert Working Group on Indicators and Terminology for Disaster Risk Reduction will be continuing its work next month here in Geneva. The continued engagement of the Science and Technology community is an important support to that formal process.

I would like to take a moment for us to consider the profound responsibility that the science and technology sector has for reducing disaster risk – we are looking at nothing short of a transformation in the way we go about economic, social and environmental development. This transformation is pertinent to both developing and developed countries because this issue truly affects us all. We are not going to meet this challenge by only responding to disasters, as important as that is; rather, we have to transform the way we plan at the local, national, regional and international levels, and science and technology will be very important for this.

The ideas that I have heard in the summaries and in my conversations with you over the past few days have inspired me. The vision that you are projecting here can motivate a new generation of scientists, help public and private sector to set research priorities or signal opportunities for research and development of new technologies. For my own part, you have helped me to refine my own vision for how to advance disaster risk reduction and the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Thank you.

I would like to express my great appreciation again to the conference co-organisers and partners that have worked so hard to bring us to this point.

I would also like to recognize the contributors of who prepared a truly impressive set of posters and the organizers who convened insightful side events – and I am particularly grateful for -- and encouraged by -- the innovative ideas put forward by young scientists.

I thank our sponsors, the Governments of Switzerland, Germany, the United States, and the Republic of Korea (on behalf of the five countries of the MITKA Partnership – Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia).

I also want to thank the group of volunteers who have helped support the conference in various ways. Finally, I want to thank the UNISDR staff who has worked incredibly hard to put this meeting together.

I now declare the Conference adjourned. Thank you.

The Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2018, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 3-6 July 2018 The Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2018, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 3-6 July 2018.
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