Speech by Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction
6th Annual Meeting of the European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction, 7-9 October 2015, Paris, France
Your Excellency Minister Royale,
Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be here today at the opening of the 6th annual meeting of the European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction – a key regional platform in the wake of the Third UN World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan in March 2015. I want to sincerely thank the Government of France and Minister Royale for hosting the event in Paris as well as for their continued engagement with UNISDR.
I express my deep condolences for the lives and livelihoods lost due to the violent storms and flooding that hit south-eastern France just a few days ago, killing at least 19 people. The economic damage to the region is still of unknown proportions. My thoughts are with those who are affected.
2015: A coherent global narrative on disaster risk reduction
The Sendai Framework was adopted this year in Sendai, Japan and endorsed by the General Assembly in June. The framework gives a clear goal to be achieved by 2030: the substantial reduction of lives, livelihoods, health and assets of communities and countries. It guides us to look at multi-hazard management of disaster risk across all sectors and to focus on not just the reduction of existing risk but the prevention of new risk. Its seven targets clearly outline what we must measure to manage our progress.
The post-2015 instruments to come after Sendai have taken up and reinforced this guidance.
The Financing for Development Conference and its resulting Addis Ababa Action Agenda recognizes the Sendai Framework as the instrument to manage and reduce risks and encourages the consideration of climate and disaster resilience in development financing.
The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals highlight disaster risk reduction across a number of goals in line with the understanding that disaster risk reduction requires a multi-sectoral approach. In particular, goals on poverty reduction, food security, cities, infrastructure, education, health and climate change see strong reinforcement of the knowledge that development gains in these sectors must be proactively protected from disasters. The ‘Transforming our World’ outcome document’s call for a revitalized partnership also echoes Sendai Framework’s call for partnerships across sectors and stakeholders to achieve resilient and sustainable development.
Last but not least, the upcoming climate change conference in this same city will provide the final piece in our 2015 landscape, and I am confident that it too will reflect the global understanding that preventing, reducing and managing risks needs to be prioritized.
The first step to implementing the Sendai Framework, of course, is to understand the risks faced.
We now know that globally, disaster losses have increased to $250-300 billion a year and that over 80% of economic losses from disasters are due to weather-related hazards.
Last year in Europe, the number of hydrological disasters showed a 45% increase compared to its decennial average. Damages from disasters in Europe in 2014 amounted to $7.8 billion. Nine floods in Europe last year cost $100 billion each, in addition to the 2014 flooding in Serbia which proved to be one of the costliest disasters with damages running up to $2 billion.
In addition, the Sendai Framework also encourages us to look more closely at slow-onset disasters and losses related to health risks.
Continuing to understand the evolving regional risk landscape will help make implementation relevant, and your knowledge and expertise will be very important for this.
Towards measuring progress on Sendai Framework’s implementation
Since you cannot manage what you cannot measure, capturing disaster loss data will be one of the most important pieces of implementation moving forward. Ultimately, the best indicator of Sendai Framework’s success will be a measured reduction in disaster losses.
As an immediate follow up of the Sendai Framework at the global level, an intergovernmental working group of experts was established by the General Assembly in June of this year to deliberate on and decide the global indicators to measure progress of the Sendai Framework.
The first meeting of this working group took place from 29-30 September in Geneva with active participation of from all regions, including Europe.
This working group will conclude its work in 2016 as mandated by the General Assembly providing for global indicators for disaster risk reduction, as well as an updated terminology of disaster risk reduction and related concepts.
This global work would certainly need to be complemented by more detail-oriented and context-specific regional, national and local perspectives.
Europe’s leadership on DRR and EFDRR’s central role in it
The engagement and knowledge of European Union Member States and engagement of the European Commission have been a driving force for disaster risk reduction for over two decades.
Over the last six years, the EFDRR has catalysed regional engagement in building resilience to disasters. The Forum and your participation in it has allowed for a common understanding of gaps and achievements in the region which has triggered collaboration on many topics.
To mention a few of your successes over the last decade:
Over the next few days at this forum, there are discussions expected on the interlinkages between disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate change action; and on the role of the private sector in making investments risk-sensitive; on national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction, among others. Last but not least, you will deliberate on the regional roadmap for Sendai Framework’s to be adopted in Finland next year at the Ministerial Session of the European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction.
I want to congratulate you on your vision in identifying priority areas in the roadmap. Work towards reaching targets on risk assessments, loss data collection and cross-sector engagement will contribute tremendously in creating a more resilient Europe.
I also want to thank the European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement (EUR-OPA) of the Council of Europe, which contributed considerably o the World Conference and the development of the Sendai Framework, and is now to develop a 4-year work plan to be endorsed at the ministerial meeting in Finland.
I look forward to discussions today and wish you a successful meeting.
I thank you all.