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BEIRUT, 10 April, 2019 - Efforts are underway to hold a first Arab Science and Technology for Disaster Risk Reduction Conference in Beirut later this year. This follows a meeting between the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, and the Secretary-General of Lebanon’s National Council for Scientific Research, Prof. Mouin Hamze. Ms. Mizutori met yesterday with Prof. Hamze and today told the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development that she was hopeful the Conference would take place later this year and acknowledged the National Council’s role in hosting the recently formed Arab Science and Technology Advisory Group. “Partnerships, if they are to succeed, need to be nurtured,” she said and called for similar support to be given to other groups including the Arab DRR Children and Youth Group; the Arab DRR Civil Society Group; the Arab Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Group; and the Arab Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.  “It is encouraging to see that stakeholder groups not only have presented their statement of action but have also developed concrete action plans,” she told today’s Special Session on Partnerships. Ms. Mizutori went on to say:  “We need to increase ambition in everything we do to succeed in reducing disaster losses, which is fundamental to eradicating poverty, hunger and the achievement of all other SDGs. “I hope that these partnerships you have created in the Region will support a substantial increase in national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction to be established by next year, the deadline set out in the Sendai Framework under target (e).” Ms. Mizutori also said how delighted she was to meet yesterday with staff members of the Saida Governorate “who in addition to their paid jobs are voluntarily engaged in disaster management activities…and interestingly the majority of them seem to be women.” Earlier in the week, Ms. Mizutori paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Mr. Saad El Hariri, and thanked him for his visible commitment to the Sendai Framework as his office is also home to the country’s Disaster Risk Management Unit. Mr. El Hariri acknowledged the need for Lebanon to step up its efforts and invest more in capacity building for resilience to disasters and the government is open to advice from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Ms. Mizutori also spoke yesterday at a workshop to kick off the “CubeSat Technology Project” which envisages the launch of Lebanon’s first NanoSatellite. “The development of Lebanon’s first Nano Satellite will give a major boost to space based programmes in your universities and will have many applications of benefit to the country’s commercial activity especially in the area of telecommunications. This in turn can be of great use in strengthening early warning systems through mobile phone networks and other channels,” she said.
By Omar H. AmachBANGKOK, 9 April 2019 - To save lives, countries must customize how messages from their early warning systems reach at-risk populations. This was the key takeaway from the Asia Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development side event on improving the “downstream” aspects of early warning systems. This session was organized by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and focused on the “last mile” of communication which pertains to all processes and mechanisms in place to deliver warning messages to at-risk populations. “We have a responsibility to tailor our approaches to the needs and situations of those most at-risk and to ensure they receive these messages, understand them, and know how to act on them,” said Ms. Loretta Hieber Girardet, Head of UNISDR Asia-Pacific. Ahead of the event, a multi-agency and stakeholder review of Sustainable Development Goal 13 had concluded that there was weak progress in the region on combating climate change which is not good news given that countries are likely to face more frequent and extreme weather events putting pressure on early warning systems. The event featured a presentation of a study commissioned by UNISDR on the downstream performance of Indonesia’s early warning system in response to last year’s devastating Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami, which killed approximately 2,100 people, making it the deadliest disaster of 2018. Speaking on behalf of the researchers who lead the study, Ms. Irina Rafliana, of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, stated that many people failed to heed the warning messages to evacuate because of social and institutional issues. As a result, the study calls for an end-to-end tsunami early warning system that seeks to strengthen every part of the system, especially the “last mile.” “There are upcoming regulations on multi-hazard early warning systems in Indonesia and we need this study to be one of the reference points for the downstream component because the draft at this point is heavily focused on the structural upstream component,” said Ms. Rafliana. Other presenters, such as RIMES (the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia), showcased how they used multiple channels and forms of communication to reach diverse populations and end-users such as farmers. Examples included the use of social media, simplifying and customizing forecasts to specific sectors, translating messages into local languages, and the use of local volunteers who understand local perceptions and culture. The latter is especially important when trying to reach marginalized groups, such as refugees in camps. Summarizing these efforts, Mr. Ahmadul Haque, Director of Cyclone Preparedness Programme in Bangladesh said: “our goal is not just reaching the ‘last mile’ but the last metre.”
By Omar H. AmachPHNOM PENH, 8 April 2019 - Considered one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change, the Royal Government of Cambodia is taking major steps to improve its resilience and reduce its disaster risk with support from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. To build Cambodia’s resilience and protect its economic and social gains from climate-induced disasters, the country is upgrading its disaster risk management system and a key part of this effort is the development of the new Strategic National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction 2019 – 2023. The strategy development kicked off with a multi-sectoral workshop in Phnom Penh that brought together line ministries, the UN system, NGOs and representatives of civil society. “Cambodia has made impressive development gains, and we need to protect these.  The new DRR strategy requires the full engagement and commitment of all sectors in Cambodia to ensure our development goals are not delayed by disasters”, said Dr. Nhim Vanda, Senior Minister in Charge and Permanent Vice President of NCDM. “ Economic growth in Cambodia over the last decade has helped lower the poverty rate sharply from 48 per cent in 2007 to 14 per cent in 2014. However, many of these gains are being threatened by the country’s vulnerability to climate change as Cambodia is likely to experience an increase in temperatures, longer droughts, and more frequent tropical storms, according to a USAID report. Cambodia is already experiencing more flooding in its wet season and longer droughts in the dry season, both of which threaten the livelihoods of 80 per cent of Cambodia’s population who rely mostly on subsistence crop production. In 2016, the country experienced a severe drought that Prime Minister Hun Sen declared as the country's worst disaster in 100 years, and in 2018 wide-scale floods affected more than 100,000 families The country is currently in the midst of another drought and a surge in high temperatures which have affected more than 20,000 hectares of rice fields in 13 provinces, according to Cambodia’s National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM). To ensure this new national strategy is focused on reducing disaster risk and aligned with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction - the global roadmap for reducing disaster losses by 2030 – the government organized a national workshop on 5 April in Phnom Penh with technical support from UNDP and UNISDR. “Having a national strategy that is developed in cooperation with all relevant ministries is critical to mobilizing a whole-of-government response,” said Ms. Loretta Hieber Girardet, Head of UNISDR Asia-Pacific, who is leading a joint mission with UNDP to Cambodia. “It is equally important to engage with civil society and stakeholders representing vulnerable groups, such as the poor, women and persons with disability, through an active national platform for DRR.” Involving all relevant ministries early in the national strategy development process, through the formation of working groups or a joint governance structure, will help ensure that DRR is also integrated into sector specific strategies. To promote resilience for all, the inclusion of different vulnerable groups in the development and implementation process of the DRR strategy is critical to meeting the needs of those most impacted by disasters. By fully participating in the process of developing and implementing the DRR strategy, representatives of vulnerable groups can convey their needs and concerns to national authorities, and at the same time, serve as conduits for the dissemination of risk communication and guidance to hard-to-reach populations. As a result, vulnerable groups, who are disproportionately impacted by disasters, become more resilient and better-prepared to deal with disasters, thus less likely to lose their livelihoods.
Bangkok, 5 April 2019 - Australia will host the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (APMCDRR), 23 to 26 June 2020 in Brisbane, in partnership with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Asia-Pacific is the most disaster-prone region in the world and includes seven of the ten countries with the highest number of disaster-related deaths in 2018. The region is facing growing disaster risk fuelled by rapid and unplanned urbanisation, climate change and growing inequality.  Australia is also confronting disruption and devastation caused by drought, bushfires, cyclones and, most recently, flooding. “Hosting this conference will provide an opportunity to share Australian experiences as well as learn from our neighbours who face similar challenges, increasing our collective understanding of disaster risks.  Working together will help us to save lives, minimise economic loss and ensure no one is left behind during a disaster”, said Senator Marise Payne, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. The conference will be held in Brisbane, home of the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, Australia’s only standalone agency responsible for disaster recovery, resilience and mitigation policy.  More than 2,000 delegates from over 50 countries, primarily in the Asia Pacific region, are expected to participate.  The conference is expected to focus on the need for local and inclusive action to build community resilience in the face of growing disaster risks. “Australia’s hosting of the next Asia-Pacific Ministerial conference offers an exciting opportunity to put a spotlight on the challenges faced by the Pacific and Small Island Developing States that are disproportionately impacted by climate change and extreme weather events”, said Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction. The conference in Brisbane is the ninth regional Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and the first hosted by Australia.  It is expected to produce a political declaration on disaster risk reduction and an updated regional action plan.  The last ministerial conference was hosted by Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar in July 2018.
By Denis McCleanNEW DELHI, 20 March, 2019 - Agreement was reached today among experts and representatives from 33 countries to establish a Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) against the backdrop of the destruction of the Mozambique port city of Beira, home to 500,000 people. “The loss of life and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from towns and cities across Southern Africa over the last five days underlines the urgency of investing in resilient infrastructure for low and middle income countries and not just high income countries. “Resilience to disasters must be affordable for anyone exposed to an earthquake or an extreme weather event like Cyclone Idai,” said Loretta Hieber Girardet, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction Regional Office for Asia-Pacific. “When infrastructure fails, disaster follows. It is clear from the discussions that we have had here this week that the Sustainable Development Goals will not be reached if we do not invest in resilient infrastructure,” said Kamal Kishore on behalf of India’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), co-organiser with UNISDR of the 2nd International Workshop on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (IWDRI) which concluded today. “When we lose hospitals, schools, roads, railways, airport, electricity supply and telecommunications in disasters the result is a major setback for eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development,” he added. The workshop participants took note of the fact that infrastructure losses from disasters and climate events are escalating worldwide.  At the same time, an unprecedented growth of investment in infrastructure sectors is expected in the coming years.   The Outcome Document states that “climate change will add another level of complexity and uncertainty in the development of infrastructure systems for the long term. It will also pose multiple challenges in the adaptation of existing systems. The infrastructure systems of the 21st century are unprecedented not only in terms of scale but also in terms of their local to global interconnectedness.  Infrastructure system disruptions in one location can now disrupt global supply chains, creating impacts that are difficult to predict.” Following the close of the IWDRI, an Interim Secretariat of the CDRI will be established in New Delhi, with support from the Government of India, UNISDR and other interested partner organisations, to facilitate the development of the CDRI in the short term. A core responsibility of the Interim Secretariat will be to define the scope of the CDRI and propose appropriate governance arrangements, that could facilitate the participation of governments, multilateral development banks, organisations of the United Nations and specialised technical and research organisations in the CDRI.  This would include a proposal for the establishment of a permanent Secretariat, the design of a viable financing mechanism for the CDRI and a resource mobilization plan. Wide-ranging consultations will take place with interested countries and other partners on the final form and functions of the CDRI. In parallel it would facilitate a number of collaborative start-up activities for the CDRI in order to generate momentum and produce short-term results.  These could include the development of knowledge products and platforms, national and sector specific case studies and best practices, a global review of disaster and climate infrastructure risk and resilience to provide a base-line for the CDRI and the discussion around the development of standards, financial and compliance mechanisms and appropriate governance arrangements.
By Denis McCleanNEW DELHI, 19 March, 2019 - Ambition on building resilient infrastructure needs to match the scale of the problem. That was the message to participants attending the opening today of the 2nd International Workshop on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. “Yesterday was the 4th birthday of the Sendai Framework. It is no longer a 15-year framework but an 11-year framework. This is the time to come up with bold initiatives. The time to think at the edges is gone, now is the time to do bold things,” said Kamal Kishore, of India’s National Disaster Management Agency which is leading an initiative to “co-create” a global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. Three major examples of resilience building in India were cited by Dr. Junaid Kamal Ahmad, Country Director, World Bank Group: the world’s largest rural roads programme, the world’s largest dam improvement projects, and the efforts of the India State of Kerala not simply to rehabilitate the areas devastated by floods last year but to build back better. He said India is an example of a country that is embedding resilience into how it approaches major infrastructure projects and there is a challenge to capture that knowledge and spread it further.  Dr. Ahmad made three recommendations for the future management of resilient infrastructure: to focus on creating centers of excellence, strengthening institutions to ensure accountability and encourage stronger relationships between local government and citizens to deal with shocks across the world.   Ms. Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, welcomed the Indian government’s initiative to develop a Coalition for Resilient Infrastructure. She said: “We are challenging ourselves on how we can disaster proof a world that lives under serious existential threat. We are advocating for change, and the change we seek is to live in a world where building to last becomes the norm, rather than trying to build back better after a disaster strikes.” Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu, Ambassador of Japan to India, said that disaster risk reduction is one of the most important challenges. “A disaster resilient world demands disaster resilient infrastructure. The Sendai Framework aims at mainstreaming disaster resilient infrastructure in all sectors and Japan as chair of the G20 is ready to formulate proposals for quality infrastructure.” Dr. PK Mishra, Prime Minister of India’s Office, said there was a need to ask how we can develop infrastructure in a way that contributes to the resilience of the poor. “Government or social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals is ultimately about people. We should follow an inclusive approach and connect with other global processes including climate action, the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda," he said. Dr. Mishra declared: “the Government of India is deeply committed, we are in it for the long haul. There is a need to connect and at the same time we would like to see tangible results, concrete initiatives in a few months from now.” Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice-Chairman of the National Institution for Transformation of India, said: “We attach huge importance to disaster risk reduction. We have to focus on how to involve the vulnerable and one of the ways is to get them involved in the process of developing disaster risk resilient infrastructure. It is key to involve civil society.” Mr.  NK Singh, chairman, 15th Finance Commission, India, said more work needs to be done to make public-private partnership investment in disaster resilient infrastructure more attractive in India. The opening session was followed by a key note address from Prof. Jim Hall, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, who pointed out that resilient infrastructure is fundamental to the achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals including 121 of the associated targets. The meeting is being attended by over 200 experts and government representatives from 33 countries including the majority of the G20 countries.
By Jeanette ElsworthINCHEON, 15 May 2019 – Competing priorities, changes in political leadership and insufficient capacities. These are just some of the challenges facing cities around the world as they prepare their disaster risk reduction plans and enhance resilience to future shocks. Representatives from twenty cities in the Making Cities Resilient Campaign met in Incheon in the Republic of Korea recently to share their experience and progress towards disaster risk planning. “The Making Cities Resilient [initiative] helps us to identify gaps and then design and create projects to fill those gaps,” explained Maha El Tahir from the Sudan Ministry of Infrastructure and Transportation, talking about her country’s capital, Khartoum. “Making cities sustainable and resilient: implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 at the local level” is a three-year initiative by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), supported by the European Commission. Under the initiative, UNISDR and its partners have been working with 20 high risk cities globally to strengthen capacities to develop and initiate the implementation of disaster risk reduction and resilience plans. In some instances, delegates explained that the challenge was not so much a lack of resources, but the allocation of funding and a misunderstanding of how disaster risk reduction – or DRR – fits into the picture. Others feel as though the leadership is, in fact listening, and factoring DRR into “There is no separate budget for DRR,” said Ahmad Khattab of the Suez Canal University. “There are a lot of new projects and infrastructure; we built a new Egypt…and all new projects now have a DRR component.” For others, changes in political landscape can be challenging. City and national level leadership may change in just four or five years while some of the resilient planning and commitments require decades or longer to come to fruition. To get around this, Cinthia Borjas, Chief of the Municipal Office of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, emphasizes the importance of institutionalizing structures and plans. “Local actors at the municipal level may change,” said Borjas, “But institutions remain. [We] are public servants and we owe ourselves to the people.” Despite the challenges, city representatives recognized and appreciated the structure and guidance of the Campaign and its related tools, including the Scorecard. “It’s like a golden presentation card with which to knock on doors”, said Borjas. “It shows a planned and organized approach, sustainable and human.” The Making Cities Resilient and Sustainable initiative is currently in planning for the next phase which will be launched in early 2020. The twenty model cities of the initiative include: Kampala, Uganda; Dire-Dawa, Ethiopia; Kisumu, Kenya; Yaounde, Cameroon; Praia, Cape Verde; Khartoum, Republic of Sudan; Ismaliya Governorate, Egypt; Nablus, Palestine; Nouakchott, Mauritania; Honiara, Solomon Islands; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Kathmandu City, Nepal; Dhaka North City Cooperation, Bangladesh; Cilacap Regency, Indonesia; Mawlamyine, Myanmar; Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Guayaquil, Ecuador; San Juan de Lurigancho, Peru; Guatemala City, Guatemala; and Santo Domingo Esto, Republica Dominicanna.
GENEVA, 18 March, 2019 – The UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, today extended her condolences to the peoples and governments of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe on the tragic loss of life resulting from Cyclone Idai at the weekend. “I extend my deepest sympathy to all those who have lost loved ones in what is the worst extreme weather event to occur so far this year. Cyclone Idai underlines that no matter how effective early warnings are, there is still a huge demand for greater investment in resilient infrastructure in many parts of the world if we are to break the cycle of disaster-response-recovery. “It is still too early to know the full extent of the disaster unfolding in the port city of Beira in Mozambique where 500,000 people bore the brunt of the storm but the human impact and trauma inflicted on the population must be very significant given the scale of the damage being reported by the Government disaster management agency, UN agencies, the Red Cross and the media. “It is particularly distressing that severe damage has been done to schools, hospitals, health facilities and other key infrastructure as this will have consequences not just for the emergency response phase but for the long-term efforts of these countries to eradicate poverty and hunger.   “Cyclone Idai is a clear demonstration of the exposure and vulnerability of many low-lying cities and towns to sea-level rise as the impact of climate change continues to influence and disrupt normal weather patterns.”
NEW DELHI, 18 March, 2019 – India today saw the launch of a UN-backed initiative to harness the power of the private sector to reduce the country’s exposure to disasters and the huge economic losses that come with them. The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, said the new group ARISE India would “turn the private sector’s attention to the importance of action before a disaster strikes and to take advantage of opportunities that emerge to build back better after a disaster hits.” This brings to 17 the number of ARISE national networks around the world. ARISE is the Private Sector Alliance For Disaster Resilient Communities supported by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. At the international level over 140 companies representing the worlds of finance and industry are members. India is represented on the international ARISE Advisory Board by Nirankar Saxena, deputy Secretary-General of the Federation of India Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). Mr. Saxena said: “It is vital for the Indian economy that the private sector is resilient to the impacts of disaster and climate risks. We must build to last and otherwise anticipate and adapt to potentially disruptive and hazardous events for the well-being of our employees and the communities in which we are located. “ARISE India is a great step forward in increasing understanding of disaster risk among business circles and will help the country to meet the targets for reducing disaster losses set out in the global plan, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.” The Sendai Framework advocates for partnership with the private sector to reduce disaster losses. Direct economic losses from disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and flooding are now reaching an average of US$250 billion to US$300 billion annually. The World Bank estimates that disasters cost the global economy US$520 billion annually. “As captains of industry, you hold enormous influence within your own domains and your communities. Through the investments you make and the decisions you take, you directly impact the built world around us,” said Ms. Mizutori. She also noted that today marks the 4th anniversary of the adoption of the Sendai Framework.
By Denis McCleanNAIROBI, 15 March, 2019 - Hunger, chronic poverty and the effects of climate change demand that we step up our efforts to reduce disaster risk and drought risk in particular. That was the message delivered today in an official statement to the UN Environment Assembly by the UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori. “I am here today to advocate for greater inclusion of good practice on food production in national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction. Time is of the essence as these strategies must be in place by next year if we are to fully implement the global plan to reduce disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction,” she said. Recalling that there has been a doubling of extreme weather events over the last 20 years, she said “these events affect the well-being of many of the 2.5 billion small-scale farmers who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The agriculture sector absorbs 25 percent of the recorded damage and losses caused by climate-related hazards in developing countries. And drought causes 80% of this damage.” Ms. Mizutori started the day by giving a lecture to students at the University of Nairobi, where she highlighted the high levels of exposure to drought and the high levels of socio-economic vulnerability across the continent. “If we don’t win the race against climate change we are not going to be successful in reducing disaster losses,” she added. She repeated a point she made yesterday in a Leadership Dialogue at the UN Environment Assembly that science and research can help us to move forward but there was a need for more scientists from hazard exposed regions like Africa. Ms. Mizutori said: “It has to be your research that counts in developing innovative solutions to disaster risk on your continent. You cannot rely on imported solutions. Think about disaster risk reduction as a career.” In her final public speaking engagement on the closing day of the Assembly, she said that the numbers of people being displaced by disasters was “staggering” at 19 million in 2017 compared to 12 million for conflict. Ms. Mizutori was speaking on a high level panel on the correlation between migration and environment convened by the government of Morocco which also hosted the signing of the Global Compact on Migration. The problem of chronic displacement fueled by poverty and extreme weather events was only likely to become more acute if greater action was not taken on climate change including adaptation, she said. She encouraged the audience to make use of the solutions to be found in the new Words into Action guide, "Disaster Displacement: How to reduce risk, address impacts and strengthe resilience," produced by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction in a collaboration led by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and funded by the Government of Germany, in support of efforts by the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD). The guide is pitched to ensure that future disaster risk reduction strategies include disaster displacement risk.