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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

07 December 2021


Excellency Dr. Han Seung-soo, Chairperson of the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP),

Excellency Dr. Basuki Hadimuljono, Minister of Public Works and Housing of Indonesia

Excellency Ms. Barbara Visser, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands,

Distinguished participants,

It is my great pleasure to join you at the 18th HELP Meeting.

On behalf of ESCAP, I express our commitment to support HELP in addressing the challenges associated with water-related disasters, particularly against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to build back better for a more resilient Asia-Pacific region.

Amid the pandemic, countries are being struck by a range of climate-induced water disasters. The devastating floods in Kerala, India, in October, and the tropical cyclone "Dianmu" that triggered large scale flooding and landslides in Thailand last month are two recent examples of disasters that affected thousands of households, leaving many vulnerable to food shortages and disease.

Addressing these cascading hazards and disaster risks through enhancing regional cooperation can help build the resilience of people and economies to multiple and overlapping disasters.

Distinguished participants,

Our recently launched Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2021 assesses the human and economic costs of converging natural and biological hazards that are occurring along with climate change.

Let me share three key messages from the Report to further our discussions on building disaster, climate and health resilience for better crisis management of water-related disasters.

The pandemic shows that countries across the globe are ill-prepared to deal with multiple overlapping and cascading crises. Tropical cyclones, for example, can lead to floods, which lead to diseases, which exacerbate poverty.

There are specific hotspots of risks from floods and tropical cyclones, where people are at greatest risk from overlaps of water-related disasters and biological hazards. This situation highlights the vulnerabilities of marginal groups.

It is estimated that if we do nothing, under the worst-case climate change scenario, annual economic losses from all hazards could rise to 1.3 trillion US dollars or 4.2 per cent of the region’s GDP. Much of this is derived from water-related hazards.

It is noted that annual adaptation costs under the same worst-case climate scenario could amount to 270 billion dollars, equivalent to 0.85 per cent of regional GDP, which is significantly less than the estimated annual economic losses of 4.2 per cent of regional GDP.

Distinguished participants,

In August 2021, ESCAP Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction at its 7th session recommended a scale-up of both regional and subregional cooperation strategies that integrate climate-related disasters, as well as associated health perspectives, to better implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Under the Asia-Pacific Disaster Resilience Network, ESCAP has been working with various partners to address regional transboundary cooperation for water-related disasters and developing knowledge products for impact-based forecasting and early warning services.

ESCAP has also launched The Risk and Resilience Portal to deepen the understanding of policymakers of cascading risks resulting from the disaster-climate-health nexus and provide risk analytics to strengthen regional cooperation.

I hope that HELP and ESCAP can work in partnership to address the new riskscape of the region. I invite HELP to join the Asia-Pacific Disaster Resilience Network to jointly forge consensus and policy action on water-related hazards.

Distinguished participants,

Strengthening regional cooperation through meetings like this one is critical for building capacity to manage disasters and public health emergencies, particularly with the aim to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare better for the looming climate crises.

I look forward to further strengthening our collaboration to build post-pandemic climate resilience that leaves no one behind.

Thank you for your attention. I wish you a very successful event.

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