ARISE Philippines 8th Top Leaders Forum

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

SRSG Opening Remarks


ARISE Philippines 8th Top Leaders Forum

Function Room 5, SMX Convention Center

Pasay City, Philippines

10.15 - 10.25, 12 November 2019


Secretary Delfin Lorenzana,

Mr. Hans Sy,

Honorable, Loren B. Legarda,

Ms. Antonia Yulo Loyzaga,

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,


Thank you for inviting me to participate in this Top Leaders Forum once again. This is my second visit as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General. I look forward to discussing together how we best harness our collective resources to reduce risk to people and our planet.

We know that micro family-run ventures to giant multinationals, companies are often hard hit by disasters that erode their bottom line or force them out of business altogether.

While companies have much to lose, they also have a huge amount to offer. It is vital that we better engage the private sector if we are to reduce disaster risk and ensure our fast-growing cities become resilient.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction sets out comprehensive targets to reduce disaster risk by 2030, including damage to critical infrastructure and basic services.

My team and I at UNDRR work closely with both the public and private sectors to ensure we meet these targets.

And as climate change ramps up the intensity and impact of devastating extreme weather events, from hurricanes to floods and droughts, the pressure is on.

Global disasters cost around $520 billion dollars each year, and it can take years for low-income countries to recover from devastating events.

In many major disasters, much of the economic burden falls on the private sector. During the 2011 Thai floods, for example, the private sector bore over 90 percent of the enormous losses.

And when it comes to overall investment, up to 85 percent comes from the private sector which means companies automatically play a major role in how new risk is created, and avoided, particularly in hazard-exposed urban areas.

Governments alone could never meet the eye-watering US$90 trillion infrastructure investment the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate says is needed by 2040, so we need to make sure private sector investment is risk-informed and resilient.

Given the scale of risk, the scale of investment needed, and the clear expectations of the role of the private sector it is surprising that in many countries, the private sector is absent from the policy and sectoral discussions that seek to minimise the creation of new disaster risks and create an environment for responsible investment.

That is why I am so very pleased to reflect on the work of ARISE Philippines, under the guidance and leadership of SM Prime Holdings and its honourable Chairman Sy.

ARISE Philippines demonstrates how public-private partnership ought to operate in the interest of the greater good. Not only has ARISE Philippines united the business sector to become more aware of the impact and influence it wields in shaping the risk trajectory of the country, but you have made the business sector an active participant in building national resilience through your partnership with the National Resilience Council. It is a model which I hope other countries would replicate.

It is clear that here, in the Philippines, your understanding of the scale of the risk has led to corresponding action to better integrate the private sector into public disaster risk reduction governance, through initiatives such as the newly launched Adopt-A-City partnership program, your engagement and mentorship of youth through the Young Leaders for Resilience Program, and your efforts to empower local action through the Barangay Resilience Program.

The Adopt-A-City program demonstrates the power of the private sector’s unique expertise and capabilities to solve complex issues. It recognises that as the sector responsible for many of the investment decisions that shape the local risk landscape, any planning that circumvents the private sector is not likely to be embraced by it. Partnership should be the model that supports all local capacity building programs, and the Adopt-A-City program is showing how this works in real time, on the ground.

Your Young Leaders Program connects the generation that will need to live with the decisions we make today with the skills, capacities and information they will need to make them. There is no greater demonstration of the eagerness of young people to be at the centre of the conversation about their future than the climate action movement. In September, ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit, around 4,600 climate rallies took place in 150 countries, in what is believed to be the largest wave of climate protests in history. We cannot and should not ignore this concern, this energy and the clarion call for change. I look forward to hearing from the Young Leaders later today.

Effective risk reduction is underpinned by good planning. I am encouraged that almost all countries in Asia-Pacific have a guiding document at the national level in line with Target (e) of the Sendai Framework, but many still need to accelerate efforts to ensure local governments have the capacity to develop their own plans to build disaster resilience. This is especially important when we consider that the majority of disasters are low-impact high-frequency events, whose impact is often limited to small areas and local governments and communities are first responders. These local disasters are very disruptive to development, widen the rural-urban divide, and can drive communities to poverty.

In countries where the majority of rural populations are reliant on subsistence farming, small level disasters such as droughts or floods can have a devastating impact on the economic welfare and food security of impacted populations. We saw this in Cambodia in 2015 and again earlier this year, where families were forced to abandon their villages and migrate to other areas for work. These events are likely to become more frequent and extreme as a result of climate change.

That is why the Barangay Resilience Program, with its emphasis on building local level capacity is so important.

I would like to encourage that this program also sets an example in leading local level efforts to ensure a joined-up, coherent approach to integrate disaster risk reduction with climate change adaptation measures, which will make the most of limited resources, and build the resilience of vulnerable communities against current and projected hazards.

We have much to discuss, celebrate and learn about today. I look forward to sharing what we discuss here with other countries to ensure that no one is left behind and that we build resilience for all.

Thank you very much.

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