Introductory Remarks by SRSG Mizutori, Workshop on Local Level Resilience and Pandemic during the Risk European Week of Regions and Cities

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
Mami Mizutori, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reductiion
Mami Mizutori, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reductiion

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Introductory Remarks by SRSG Mizutori

Workshop on Local Level Resilience and Pandemic Risk
European Week of Regions and Cities
Tuesday 13 October 2020, virtual

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Speakers,

I would like to welcome you today to this virtual Workshop, co-organised by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the European Committee of the Regions and the Centre for European Volunteering.

I am pleased to see so many participants joining remotely, and would like to thank the organisers of the European Week of Regions and Cities to bring together so many of us, over what I understand is a very rich programme celebrating the importance of local and regional actors in Europe.

This event is of particular relevance, as we celebrate today the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.

This year more than ever, disaster risk and the need to mitigate impacts, have never been so central to our collective thinking.

We can all easily agree that this is an extraordinary time to be alive. COVID-19 is beyond anything experienced within living memory.

Long-standing norms have been upended.

The way we live.

The way we communicate with each other.

The way we work and study. Or cannot work or be educated as is the case now for many.

Our lives have been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restraint it has imposed on all our lives.

In addition, it is now estimated that this pandemic could cost the global economy some US$21 trillion. Europe is not spared. Early September, the EU reported GDP down by 11.8% and employment down by 2.9% in the euro area.

Considering these profound changes, it is only right that we use the occasion of this year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction to ask hard question about our capacity to manage risk.

This crisis is everyone’s business. It is also clear that local and regional governments are on the frontline of this crisis as they are for most disasters. The work of building resilience and reducing risk cannot proceed without them.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction – the global framework that seeks a substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health – pays special attention to engagement at the local level and the role of local and regional actors in particular.

In many ways Europe – its cities and regions at its heart - have produced some outstanding examples of how strong disaster governance executed with vision, competence, trust and transparency can avoid unnecessary loss of life.

Today’s discussion will, I am sure, highlight a wealth of these examples. We will hear about how Capital Cities such as Paris and Madrid are grappling with ongoing pressures on their societal functions and how lessons may be drawn in building back more resilient systems. We will also better understand how regional and local governments in Italy were able to overcome the worst health crisis in living history, and the measures taken to strengthen resilience in the face of a second pandemic wave.

Good disaster risk governance requires both imagination and common sense, and more than anything it requires strong leadership.

And I am very pleased to see such a level of commitment expressed by putting this topic on top of the agenda of the European Week of Regions and Cities. A commitment echoed by Members of the Committee of the Regions, which had the honour of addressing yesterday.

It is important that it is done well because we are in real danger of not achieving either the Sendai Framework targets for reducing disaster losses or any of the SDGs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Solidarity and international cooperation is key to both response and recovery efforts. Mutual support and shared learning across your regions will help to build back better and in a more resilient way.

The European Union, through its Recovery Package, but most of all through the wealth of resilient and inspiring local and regional actors, is a clear demonstration of such solidarity in action.

The case for prevention and resilience, alongside the critical needs of response and preparedness, are clear.

Europe’s solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic relies more than ever on its cities and regions.

These exchanges will, I am sure, help reinforce this reality and support the European Union achieve the global targets for disaster resilience including having more national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction in place by the end of this year.

At a global level, the Making Cities Resilient 2030 initiative, launched later in October, will be an opportunity to improve support to cities and regions engaged in Resilience.

I call of you to join in reinforcing this important dimension in building resilience to disasters. Experiences from each and every region and locality represented here can only help reinforce global efforts towards increased resilience.

We often say that the worst disaster that could happen, has not happened yet.

Let us bear that in mind as we learn the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and seek to understand what is required to strengthen disaster risk governance across the region.

I would once again thank the co-organisers and speakers of today’s workshop, and look forward to working with the committee of the regions in advocating for a strengthened engagement of local and regional actors at the EU level and beyond.

Thank you for your attention. 

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