Asia-Pacific governments embrace technological innovations, regional network to boost disaster resilience

Governments across Asia and the Pacific this week endorsed a set of collective recommendations and initiatives, including scaling up regional cooperation to complement national efforts in reducing disaster risk, in recognition of the changing geography and intensification of disaster risks.

Convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the sixth session of the Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction endorsed the operationalization of the Asia-Pacific Disaster Resilience Network, to mobilize expertise and resources of existing networks and partnerships and deploy them towards developing practical resilience solutions.

“With disaster risk increasingly disrupting hard-won socioeconomic gains from development processes, countries in this region can offer rich policy experiences and lessons in dealing with the ever-changing dynamics of disaster risk,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana at the opening. She called for governments to strengthen collective regional preparedness and responses, as well as address the needs of vulnerable communities, adding “The time is now. We must be bold and innovative in our resolve to overcome the catastrophic impacts on our communities from the curse of disaster risk.”

The Asia-Pacific region has some of the world’s most extensive transboundary disaster risk hotspots. According to ESCAP’s recently released Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2019, disasters are five times more likely to affect a person in the region than a person living elsewhere. The report also projects that if disaster risks are unmitigated, 119 million people in the region will be left behind in absolute poverty by 2030.

“End-to-end early warning systems save lives and are key to empowering communities to effectively reduce their disaster risks. However, challenges are increasing to protecting poor and vulnerable communities, our economic assets and critical infrastructure. As policymakers we are also increasingly concerned that disasters may reverse implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals,” shared H.E. Police Lieutenant General Nadhapit Snidvongs, Vice Minister of Interior, Royal Thai Government.

“No country alone can succeed in restraining disasters with transboundary origins and impacts. The opportunity lies in our collective wisdom and the sharing of knowledge and experience,” said H.E. Mr. Mohammad Qaseem Haidari, Deputy Minister for Disaster Management, Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority.

Countries in the region agreed to strengthen risk assessment and multi-hazard early warning systems for common transboundary disasters, by promoting effective regional and subregional efforts and applying technological innovations such as big data and space applications, to strengthen the region’s resilience. In this regard, the Committee welcomed the offer of the Government of Indonesia to host the region’s fourth Ministerial Conference on space applications and geospatial information.

They further agreed to promote the inclusion and empowerment of at-risk communities in disaster risk hotspots such as transboundary river basins, “Ring of Fire”, Pacific small island developing States, and sand and dust storm risk corridors.

The ESCAP Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction, which meets biennially, brings together senior government officials and experts to discuss pragmatic solution-oriented efforts to support disaster risk reduction across the region. This year, the meeting took place alongside the ESCAP Disaster Resilience Week 2019 which featured a series of events, workshops and exhibits in support of the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Sustainable Development Goals.