GA: Thematic debate on disaster risk reduction

2/10/2011 // On Wednesday February 9, the UN General Assembly held an informal thematic debate on disaster risk reduction called "Waking up to loss: Recognizing Risks, Controlling the Damage". Sweden's UN Ambassador Mårten Grunditz presented a statement on behalf of the five Nordic countries - Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden.

Mr President, distinguished delegates,

Allow me to make a few remarks on behalf of the Nordic countries (Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden).

The devastating natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan have underlined the need to focus more on prevention and preparedness, to reduce long term vulnerability. However, risk reduction and early preparedness is still not an integrated part of the everyday work of development institutions such as ministries of planning and finance. Disaster risk reduction needs to be linked directly to development plans and accountability frameworks, with governments assuming responsibility and showing political commitment. The increases in disaster risk arising from public or private interventions, such as forest or wetland exploitation or vulnerability-raising infrastructure projects, should be treated not as externalities but be incorporated into the evaluation and costing of the projects concerned. This can be done by adding disaster risk as a formal part of environmental impact assessments. Efforts to rebuild societies after disasters must also include improved strategies for disaster preparedness and reduction. I would be interested to hear from the panellists, which, in your view, are the critical factors to ensure that disaster preparedness is better integrated into development planning at national and international levels?

Investing in disaster risk reduction remains a challenge. As we approach 2015, countries race to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, investments in development are expected to increase, including construction of schools and hospitals. If not done through a risk-sensitive approach, such investments can potentially put many people at risk. Conversely, increased resilience to natural hazards can accelerate the achievement of the MDGs. Despite evidence of greater investment in disaster risk reduction, most of the funding is still geared towards response preparedness rather then genuine disaster risk reduction activities. How can we provide further incentives for governments, international organisations and NGOs to invest in disaster risk reduction in the run-up to the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals?

Links between development and climate change adaptation must be further developed to achieve sustainable and resilient societies. Building resilience against natural hazards also offers concrete opportunities for climate change adaptation. Could I ask the panellists to share some of your experiences from working with these types of approaches, integrating disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change.

The poor are the hardest hit by disasters, just as they are by climate change impacts. A major challenge in the implementation of the Hyogo Framework of Action is reaching the most vulnerable communities. While progress has been made in recent years at the policy level, the benefits are yet to be felt at the local level. Most of the focus until now has been at the national level, not least with regard to resource allocation. In the coming mid term review of Hyogo Framework of Action, how can we ensure increased participation and access to funding for the most vulnerable groups and communities?

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