Welcome remarks at the Sixth Session of the Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction

Excellency Dr Nadhapit Sandivongs Na Ayudhaya, Vice Minister of Interior, Royal Thai Government
Excellency Mr. Mohammad Qaseem Haidari, Deputy Minister for Disaster Management, Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority
Excellency Mr. Mohsen Mohammadi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to ESCAP
Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and to the Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction. I am looking forward to learning more about pragmatic solution-oriented efforts to support disaster risk reduction across our region.

Since this Committee last met in 2017, our region has experienced negative impacts of large-scale disasters, which impacted socioeconomic fabric of communities from Indonesia to Islamic Republic of Iran, Afghanistan to Australia, and Palau to Philippines, just to name a few.

Today, intense heatwaves and drought are becoming more frequent; unusual tropical cyclones originate from beyond the traditional risk zones and follow tracks that have not been seen before; and unprecedented floods in extremely fragile eco-systems are multiplying.

Notably, the Asia-Pacific region has some of the world’s most extensive transboundary disaster risk hotspots, namely, transboundary river basins, Ring of Fire, Pacific small island developing States, and sand and dust storm risk corridors.

With disasters risk increasingly disrupting hard-won socioeconomic gains from development processes, countries in this region can still offer rich policy experiences and lessons in dealing with the ever-changing dynamics of disaster risk.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Let me share some highlights from our recently launched Asia Pacific Disaster Report 2019, a biennial flagship publication of UN ESCAP, for your further discussions to address shared vulnerabilities and risks, within the broader context of the region’s ‘riskscape’.

The Report’s analysis shows that by adding slow-onset disasters to the existing risks of earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tropical cyclones and storm surge, annualized economic loses more than quadruple to USD $675 billion; or 2.4 per cent of the region’s GDP.

The Report projects that with unmitigated disaster risk, 119 million people are expected to be living in absolute poverty by 2030.

Furthermore, with almost 40 per cent of disaster losses impacting are on the social infrastructure sectors of health, education, and housing, resulting in deepening inequalities and entrenching poverty over generations.

Disasters are five times more likely to affect a person in Asia-Pacific than a person living elsewhere. Intensification and changing geography of disaster risks are the new normal.

Adverse impacts of disasters are changing our mindsets. To my mind, transformed and resilient societies in Asia and the Pacific can only be successfully achieved if we stop disaster risk outpacing resilience.

Increasingly driven by climate change, addressing needs of vulnerable communities, especially in the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and middle income countries, call for strengthening of collective regional preparedness and responses.

Time is now, and we must be innovative and bold in our resolve to overcome catastrophic impacts on our communities from the curse of disaster risk. Scaling up national disaster risk reduction strategies is the only option to save our planet for enjoying long-term prosperity.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
As we look to the future, there are at least four areas on which this Committee’s guidance would be valuable.

First, to strengthen risk assessment and multi-hazard early warning systems of common and transboundary disasters, our region needs to promote effective regional and subregional efforts to enhance disaster risk modelling, assessment, mapping and monitoring.

Second, to enhance geospatial information applications and services for disaster resilience, I hope this Committee can take further steps in strengthening the capacity of member States in geospatial information management.

Third, to support of monitoring of the implementation of the Sendai Framework and progress towards the 2030 Agenda, there remains a great need on advancing disaster-related statistics in Asia and the Pacific.

Fourth, to operationalize the Asia-Pacific disaster risk atlas as an initial regional repository of cross-border multi-hazard information, I recognize the importance of an action plan for a subregional cooperation mechanism for slow-onset hazards with a focus on sand and dust storms in South-West and Central Asia.

I am confident that this Committee can further develop the coherent positions needed for operationalizing the Asia-Pacific Disaster Resilience Network to accelerate action to build resilience in the region’s disaster risk hotspots.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
I am committed to supporting member States initiatives in disaster risk reduction policies to build resilience and to have more ambition for all and everywhere.
Enhancing digital connectivity through the Master Plan for the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway, the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Regional Cooperation Framework Document, 2019-2022, and Asia-Pacific Plan of Action on Space Applications for Sustainable Development (2018-2030) are some of the critical tools that UN ESCAP platform is creating to build regional consensus and policy coherence for disaster resilience and sustainable development.

In view of this, may I highlight three policy responses for your consideration and further guidance.

First, inclusive investments in resilience are needed to implement targeted interventions to strengthen the capacities of the poorest and most vulnerable groups.

Second, technological innovations can mitigate the new climate reality, especially big data innovations such as using the large data sets from mobile phone tracking to satellite platforms, to reveal patterns, trends, and associations of complex disaster risks in real time.

Third, opportunities to scale-up regional cooperation are paramount so that ultimately our joint endeavors reinforce national and subregional efforts such as the ASEAN-United Nations Joint Strategic Plan of Action on Disaster Management 2016-2020.

But we can not take this journey alone. The UN ESCAP, along with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the World Meteorological Organization, UN Development Programme, as well as the United Nations family stand ready to be partnering with member States and all stakeholders to build towards a disaster free and resilient Asia and the Pacific.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
I am looking forward to hearing the outcome of this Committee, and that of the Asia-Pacific Climate Week 2019, which will serve as inputs from Asia and the Pacific region to the upcoming Climate Action Summit of the Secretary General in September 21-23, 2019 in New York. I count on your leadership.

We are grateful for the support and cooperation received from our member States as we work together to deliver on strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in Asia and the Pacific.

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