UNISDR head, Mami Mizutori, Deputy Prime Minister, Enkhtuvshin Ulziisaikhan, and Prime Minister, Khurelsukh Ukhnaa, on stage today with singing schoolchildren at the opening of the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaser Risk Reduction (Photo: Tejas Patnaik, UNISDR)
By Denis McClean
ULAANBAATAR, 3 July, 2018 - A ten year-old school girl almost stole the show. In plain, simple language Maralgoo recited how it makes her sad when she sees people dying or losing their homes in disasters on TV but feels happy when she sees rescuers at work.
Maralgwo counts herself lucky that she attends a school in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, where she takes part in earthquake drills and learns first aid.
She closed her recitation to a rapt audience at the opening ceremony for the three-day Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) with a quiet plea, “open your hearts and your minds to make a better world for all of us.”
She was a hard act to follow but Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa was up to the task as someone who has attended the last two World Conferences on Disaster Risk Reduction and was himself declared a DRR Champion at the last Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Cancun, Mexico, in 2017.
Prime Minister Khurelsukh said this AMCDRR would be a dynamic event hosted by a unique, landlocked country with extreme temperature swings and a large nomadic population, vulnerable to range of disasters including the deadly winter dzuds, earthquakes, forest fires and drought.
“The pursuit of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is a clear necessity for this region,” he said in reference to the global plan adopted three years ago to reduce disaster losses.
Mongolia is deeply concerned at the increase in frequency and scope of disasters. He expressed concern also for Asia as a whole which includes the vast majority of the world’s disaster affected people.
Outlining preconditions for sustainable development he identified the importance of information and knowledge sharing, including DRR in education up to third level, resilient agriculture, business continuity and the creation of financial mechanisms to invest in disaster resilience.
The Prime Minister noted that Mongolia is organizing two special sessions in the coming days on resilient urban infrastructure and public-private partnerships.
He was preceded by the Deputy Prime Minister, Enkhtuvshin Ulziisaikhan, who welcomed the 2,500 participants from over 50 countries and 1,584 international organisations and NGOs who would be engaged in a host of special sessions and side events in a very inclusive Conference where all stakeholders are taking part.
“At this conference we will take stock of the progress achieved in implementing the Sendai Framework at the regional and national levels, as well as discuss and adopt the Action Plan for the Asia Region in 2018-2020 and the Ulaanbaatar Declaration on disaster risk reduction.”
In her keynote speech, the UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mitzutori, focused on inclusion and the importance of increasing the number of countries in the region with national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction by 2020, a key target of the Sendai Framework.
“Strong political leadership has meant that most countries have embraced the spirit of the Sendai Framework and are acting to put that spirit to work in meaningful ways that will translate into fewer lives torn apart by disaster losses and a deeper understanding of the actions which ordinary citizens can take to ensure their safety,” she said.
Ms. Mitzutori highlighted Inclusion as a major theme of the Sendai Framework. “Good governance equals good engagement with the public and all stakeholders because no government on its own can achieve the transformational change sought by those UN member states who drafted and adopted the Sendai Framework three years ago.
“We need to hear the voices of those who suffer disproportionately in disaster events. People living with disabilities, older persons, women, children and indigenous groups need to be consulted and engaged as agents of change in their own communities.”
She was pleased to note that stakeholder groups who represent their interests and can speak on their behalf are organising many of the sessions at this Conference which will set a new benchmark for inclusion at such regional events.
In a video message to the Conference, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said: “Climate change, rapid and unplanned urbanization, and entrenched poverty are amplifying the impact of extreme weather events and earthquakes. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction sets targets for disaster prevention and reducing losses.
“I commend the Asia-Pacific region for fully embracing the Sendai Framework, and for your leadership on risk reduction. We must tackle disaster risks and leave a more resilient planet to future generations.”