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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

12 September 2022


Excellency Khadeeja Naseem, Minister of State for Environment, Climate Change and Technology of the Maldives and Chair of the Seventh Session of the Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction,

Excellency Ambassador Chirachai Punkrasin, Executive Director of the ASEAN Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue,

Mr. Jagan Chapagain, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies,

Excellencies, distinguished participants,

May I begin with what the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said recently on the devastating floods in Pakistan: “The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids -- the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding.”

A few months back, unprecedented flooding events battered Bangladesh, and Assam in India.

South-East Asia continues to be hit by all kinds of disasters, one after another.

Quick successions of super typhoon and tropical cyclone events batter communities across North-East Asia and the Pacific.

Last week alone, the region saw a total of 44 disasters, among which there was one earthquake, two storms, four wind-related events, nine landslides and 28 floods.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that countries, almost without exception, are still ill-prepared to deal with multiple overlapping crises, which often cascade, with one triggering another.

And last, but not least, if we are unable to contain the warming of the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world will need to prepare for a new normal of disasters compounded and in more frequencies.

The 2022 Asia-Pacific Disaster Report for ESCAP’s subregions shows that under all climate-change scenarios, and in comparison to global averages, Asia and the Pacific will be most affected by heavy precipitation, followed by agricultural drought, hot temperatures, heatwaves, and warming winds with intensifying tropical cyclones. 

Allow me to share three key recommendations from the Report:

First—we need customized adaptation and resilience pathways with an emphasis on risk-informed development policies and investments. The adaptation gaps are critical in the vulnerable subregions which are likely to be affected the most under the 1.5-to-2-degree warming scenarios.

Second—we need to make full use of the opportunities that technological innovations offer. Frontier technologies such as geospatial applications augmented by digital innovations not only reduce the cost of implementing the policy interventions, but they also have game-changing impacts on scaling up transformative adaptation.

Risk analytics like impact forecasting, integrated multi-hazard risk assessment and early warning, surveillance and strategic foresights are all transformative adaptation pathways, and they also present us opportunities to support the efficient management of pandemics like COVID-19.

Third—we need regional cooperation with subregional cooperation approaches. It’s time to capitalize on the untapped potential of regional and subregional cooperation to address the region’s shared vulnerabilities and risks that are more critical at 1.5 to 2 degrees warming.

In this regard, let me highlight ASEAN’s Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response, the first intergovernmental agreement on disaster management that is legally binding. It demonstrates the bloc’s commitment to South-South cooperation: a unique model towards resilience in a riskier world. 

Excellencies, distinguished participants,

Allow me to stress – that no work on resilience building will ever be fully realized without partnerships. The transboundary nature of many disasters makes it clear that regional cooperation on resilience building is very critical.

In this regard, I thank all donors to the Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness, including the Governments of Switzerland and Italy, our two most recent donors, for their commitment to strengthening triangular and South-South cooperation for disaster resilience.

I also extend appreciation to IFRC Secretary-General Jagan Chapagain, with whom we are signing a Memorandum of Understanding today.

Let us make the most of this moment that today’s Leadership Roundtable and the broader Global South-South Development Expo presents to us.

Thank you.

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