«Shifting from managing disasters to managing disasters risks!»

Bern, 15.03.2015 – Sendai, 15.03.2015 – Speach of the Swiss Federal councilor Didier Burkhalter at the 3rd UN-Worldconference in Sendai.

Switzerland attaches great importance to disaster risk reduction, and I am very pleased to note that we have gathered such a distinguished group of experts and leaders to discuss some pressing issues and the way ahead!

This morning’s event will address three pertinent questions:

– First, how can we integrate disaster risk reduction in ongoing multilateral processes to ensure that it becomes an integral part of the sustainable development agenda?
– Second, how can we make swifter and more effective progress in our efforts to reduce disaster risks?
– Third, how can we identify the investments that have the biggest multiplying effects?

These questions are evidently complex and I am grateful to our panellists and to all of you for your contributions to this debate.

Before I hand over the floor, let me make three observations from a Swiss perspective:

1. First, on disaster risk reduction and multilateral processes:

Experience shows that we cannot pursue separate tracks of action to reduce disaster and climate risk, to fight poverty, to prevent conflicts and to achieve sustainable development. Disaster resilience has to be an essential and integral part of the post-2015 agenda.

Switzerland, together with many of you, fought hard to have meaningful indicators for disaster risk reduction in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Global Goal for Water is an example of this holistic approach. Its targets and indicators focus on:

– water, sanitation and hygiene
– water resource management
– wastewater management and water quality
– and particularly important here in Sendai: resilience to water-related disasters

This year, we have a great opportunity to create a new paradigm for international cooperation for the next generation. As decision-makers will gather in Addis Ababa, New York and Paris, we have to ensure that our efforts to reduce disaster risks are coherent and ambitious.

2. My second point is this: we need to make investments that ensure effective delivery  on the ground.

We must achieve better results in bringing disaster resilience to people and communities. We have to make a difference for men an women. The poorest and most vulnerable are often the first and most affected victims of disasters.

Despite decades of investment to reduce disaster risk, the social and economic costs of disasters continue to rise, particularly among poor communities in developing countries.

As the global population continues to grow and the climate continues to change, millions of people are facing greater challenges in terms of extreme events, health effects, food insecurity, water insecurity, livelihood insecurity, migration and other related risks. To address this, a much stronger focus on the causes of poverty and vulnerability is needed.

Through its support for disaster resilience measures, Switzerland seeks to put resources directly into the hands of poor households and communities, support civil society and broader citizen engagement in disaster risk management to achieve greater results on the ground, and to give local communities a voice in national and global policy dialogue.

3. For my final point, let me, as a good Swiss citizen, recall that money matters.

Investing in disaster resilience is a safe investment with excellent returns. In Sendai and beyond Sendai, it is important to address this financial aspect of disaster resilience.

We have to make better use of the instruments and resources at our disposal. Each year, international institutions such as the World Bank, UNDP and the World Food Programme invest billions of dollars and have a major normative influence. All these activities must be inherently risk-sensitive and result in the increased resilience of our communities and cities.

Most funding for disaster risk reduction has traditionally come from humanitarian budgets. Once a disaster strikes, considerable resources are made available. But attention spans are short and the means to build disaster resilience vanish quickly.

We need to change our perspective from managing disasters to managing disaster risks. A larger timeframe, a participatory approach involving communities and strong engagement of local government are prerequisites for lasting change. Funding for disaster resilience should therefore be included in both humanitarian and development budgets to safeguard development investments.

A key actor is the private sector, which is responsible for a large proportion of new investments made around the world. The private sector sometimes exacerbates risks. Think for example of industrial plants constructed in flood-prone areas. But the private sector is also at the forefront of innovation. The insurance sector, in particular, puts a price on risks, creating large incentives to plan better, prepare better and ultimately reduce disaster risks.

The Swiss Federal Constitution states that “the strength of a community is measured by the well-being of its weakest members”. As we talk this morning about technical aspects of Disaster Risk Reduction, we should never forget our final goal: strengthening the weakest members of the international community and protecting the most vulnerable human beings.

Other english reports, that might be interesting for you:

Disaster resilience: «Better safe than sorry!

Swiss priorities in countering violent extremism

HIV-children and wildlife-conservation programs

«The OSCE – an opportunity we must seize together»

Providing OSCE with the capacity to reconsolidate European security

Links zu weiteren Specials und Dossiers

NGO-Radar | Datenschutz-Dossier | (A-)Soziales im Inland | Klima & Umwelt-Dossier

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