Strengthening Partnerships Towards Disaster Risk Reduction For Small Island Developing States

Date & Time:
Tuesday 21 May (15:00-18:00)

Room 3



Focal Point:
Mr. Damien Sass, UN-OHRLLS (
Mr. Steven Goldfinch, UNISDR (


Small island developing States (SIDS) are widely recognized as being highly prone to both natural and man-made hazards. SIDS are located amongst the world’s most vulnerable regions, facing intense and frequent natural and environmental disasters. The increasing impact of disasters is having a disproportionately high economic, social, and environmental cost, causing complex reconstruction challenges. Six of the top ten countries with the highest proportion of annual average losses against their yearly production of gross capital are SIDS.

In SIDS, estimated average annual losses from tropical cyclones are significant, from more than US$12 million in Fiji to around US$60 million in the Dominican Republic.1 In addition, significant proportions of capital assets, production and people are exposed to extreme tsunami risk. Given their small size, individual hazard events, such as cyclones, may affect the entire territory and economy. As such disasters can destroy decades of development gains.

Climate change impacts, such as the increasing severity of extreme-weather events and sea level rise, are exacerbating SIDS’ disaster risks. Sea level rise, for instance, is expected to aggravate inundation, storm surge, erosion and other coastal hazards, thus threatening vital infrastructure, settlements and facilities that support livelihoods of small island communities. By mid-century,
climate change is expected to reduce water resources in many small islands to the point where they become insufficient to meet demand during low-rainfall periods.

While many SIDS have made strides in implementing disaster reduction measures at the national and regional levels, they continue to rely on the support of development partners to accelerate and sustain such efforts. The international community, in the outcome of Rio+20, reaffirmed its recognition of SIDS as a special case for sustainable development given their unique and particular vulnerabilities inter alia a large range of impacts from climate change and potentially more frequent and intense natural disasters.

Increased efforts are needed by both SIDS themselves and their development partners to reduce disaster losses and implement the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 and its successor agreement. Private sector investment and public private partnerships in key sectors and industries, such as the tourism sector, can play a critical role in this process. Investment in the tourism sector and public promotion and regulation of the industry in SIDS represent both an opportunity and a risk. Incentives via appropriate policies on corporate tax breaks or adequate pricing of risk by the insurance market, for example, can greatly increase the opportunities available to encourage disaster resilient investments.

As momentum builds towards framing disaster risk reduction within the post-2015 development agenda, and in the follow-up to the outcomes of Rio+20, it is vital that any goals and actions reflect the reality of the vulnerabilities of SIDS.

One outcome from Rio+20 was the decision by the international community to convene the Third International Conference on the sustainable development of SIDS to be hosted by Samoa in 2014. Issues pertinent to disaster risk reduction will likely feature at the conference and the outcomes. This Featured Event will contribute to the dialogue and advocacy for some of the key themes – including disaster risk reduction – towards ensuring the delivery of concrete and tangible outcomes for the 2014 conference along with an exchange of ideas towards the 2015 development agenda.

Session objectives

In light of the interrelated and complex reality SIDS face, vis-à-vis disaster risk, the Featured Event aims to draw upon national and regional experiences through the perspectives of political leaders, experts and stakeholders in various aspects pertaining to the disaster risk reduction agenda for SIDS.

Objectives include:

To highlight the vulnerability and exposure of SIDS to hazards leading to escalating losses, and its corresponding impact on development.

To call for immediate action and support to reduce risks associated with disasters and to enhance SIDS’ resilience.

To discuss the findings of the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2013 in light of new risk data and highlight the role of the private sector in contributing to risk mitigation.

To indentify work to be done on disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and sustainable development to contribute to the SIDS International Conference 2014.

To engage in grassroots perspectives and responses in bolstering the capacity of SIDS to respond to disaster risk.

Discussion Agenda and Structure

First Session
Chair, UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States

1. Opening remarks by the UN Deputy-Secretary-General

2. Statements by high level representatives

3. Briefing on the Global Assessment Report for Disaster Risk Reduction 2013 on economic losses in SIDS, as a result of increased vulnerability and exposure with a focus on the tourism sector.
Second Session

4. Introduction to interactive debate by the Moderator

5. Interactive debate directed by the Moderator

− The need for institutional strengthening and capacity building to
enhance resilience in SIDS, with example of national experiences.
− Public awareness at the local and grassroots levels in bolstering the capacity of SIDS to respond to disaster risks.
− Special vulnerabilities of SIDS to climate change impacts and
opportunities to build resilience.
− Highlighting the importance of traditional knowledge as a means for
societies to enhance resilience against disasters.
− Challenges and opportunities in the field during post-disaster
recovery and rebuilding.

6. Questions from the floor

7. Summary and wrap-up by Chair

Relevance of the Initiative

SIDS are on the frontline of vulnerability and exposure to disaster risk and climate change. The experiences of SIDS are a precursor to what other countries might face in the future. The GAR 2013 also highlights the high disaster risks and low economic resilience of SIDS. An event that gives more attention to SIDS and disaster risk reduction strengthens the agenda for the SIDS conference 2014 and the World Conference of Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015.

Subject's link to post-2015

There has been substantial reporting on progress against the current HFA by SIDS. Given vulnerability to disaster risk, SIDS will have an important focus in the post-2015 development agenda and the HFA2.

Other Information

News items will be regularly published on the Global Platform homepage at:

Expected Outcomes

SIDS are essentially the “canary in the coal mine” (or an early barometer) when it comes to the adverse impacts of climate change.
The Featured Event will not only identify the hazards but also put forth meaningful adaptation strategies specific to the regional, national and local levels to mitigate and reduce disaster
risks. It is also expected that adaptation strategies catered towards the local and grassroots area will be on the agenda.

By 2015, consensus should be reached as to the role and commitment by the international community towards supporting SIDS in strengthening their capacity to respond to disasters. Sensitising development partners and the international community to the continued need for institutional strengthening and capacity building to enhance resilience towards disasters in SIDS will be one of the
overarching expected outcomes of the Featured Event.

With momentum building towards framing of the post 2015 development agenda and the HFA2, it is essential that SIDS be recognised as a special case in need of a comprehensive framework for partnerships and support by the international community to build resilience and strengthen disaster risk reduction one of the most vulnerable groups of countries.

The debate and discussions will highlight the overarching need for continued support by the international community towards SIDS and thus be reflected in the Chair’s Summary of the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.


Moderator: Ms. Lyse Doucet, BBC Presenter and Special Correspondent

Speakers (as at 19 May 2013):

• Mr. Jan Eliasson, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General
• H.E. Mr. David Basile, Minister of the Interior, Republic of Haiti
• H.E. Dr. James Fletcher, Minister of the Public Service, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology, Saint Lucia
• H.E. Ms. Nikki Kaye, Minister of Civil Defence, New Zealand
• H.E. Ms. Marisa Helena Nascimento Morais, Minister of Home Affairs, Cape Verde
• H.E. Mr. Mohamed Nazim, Minister of Defence, Republic of Maldives
• Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
• Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
• Mr. Andrew Maskrey, Coordinator, United Nations Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction
• Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya, United Nations High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
• H.E. Ms. Iruthisham Adam, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Republic of Maldives
• Dr. José Rubiera, Director, National Forecasting Centre, Cuba
• Mrs. Annies Simon, Civil Society Representative, Vanuatu
• Mr. Ronald Jackson, Executive Director, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency
• Mr. Gary Philoctete, Country Director, J/P Haitian Relief Organization

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