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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

05 November 2020

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

A warm welcome to the 21st Regular Meeting of the Trust Fund’s Advisory Council. Today, we meet to observe the 2020 World Tsunami Awareness Day.

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly designated 5 November as the World Tsunami Awareness Day as a way for member States, international and regional organizations and civil society to continuously raise public awareness of the risk caused by tsunamis, and share innovative and effective approaches to response to disaster risk reduction.

This initiative has received significant support from the Government of Japan.  As a country heavily affected by tsunamis in Asia and the Pacific, Japan has led in the sharing of experiences and good practices from the Pacific and supporting their replication in Indian Ocean countries.

Therefore, Japan has played a key role in the achievement of Target (e) of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, which is also the theme of this year’s World Tsunami Awareness Day, namely to “Substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020”

Much has been achieved since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 250,000 in over 10 countries, exposing the lack of Indian Ocean early warning systems and disaster preparedness.

As a follow-up, the establishment of the ESCAP Multi-Donor Trust Fund with Thailand’s founding contribution of US$ 10 million, just one year after the disaster, represented a significant milestone towards a collective regional effort to address these unmet needs in the in Asia-Pacific region. 

Today, this Trust Fund continues to provide financial and technical support to the early warning systems in our region. As the only dedicated regional Trust Fund that delivers coordinated support in the development of multi-hazard early warning systems, it has achieved significant results by promoting innovative pilot initiatives, scaling up early warning systems and facilitating cooperation among countries.

Allow me to highlight three examples.

At the national level, the Trust Fund helped establish, first, seismic and sea-level stations in Viet Nam, the Philippines and Myanmar, second one is linked remote islands to the national early warning system in the Maldives, and the third example is raised awareness of the Makran tsunami risk in Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

At the regional level, the Trust Fund contributed actively to the establishment of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS), which became operational in 2011 and helped develop and test tsunami standard operating procedures.

It also helped establish the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES), which has grown into a successful provider of cost-effective warning products and services, fully owned by its member States. I look forward to visiting AIT and RIMES tomorrow. 

So, the Trust Fund has contributed to all aspects of people-centred early warning system and to protect our communities that fit regional, subregional and country contexts.

In this context, COVID-19 is an important reminder that risks are not local but can cascade to other parts of the “system” – social, economic and environmental. Therefore , managing risks and raising resilience across all the 17 SDGs holds the key for a sustainable recovery.

As we embark upon the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), there is an important opportunity to sustainably manage the Oceans and reduce disaster risk.

Notably, I would like to take this opportunity to express our sincerest thanks to the Government of Switzerland for joining the Trust Fund and to the Government of Thailand for the new contribution.

Your active partnership and participation will further help to build resilience and share good practices.

ESCAP, together with the UN system such as UNDRR and IOC-UNESCO, is committed to engage with member States to meet their growing aspirations and to build back better in the post-COVID-19 era in the Asia-Pacific region.

I would like to thank you all for your continued interest and commitment.

Thank you very much.

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