Open Talk for New Zealand’s DRR community

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction


Open Talk for New Zealand’s DRR community

Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction Ms. Mami Mizutori

Resilient and sustainable development

in an era of escalating climate risk

Tonkin & Taylor Conference Centre


14.30h Friday 15 November 2019

Good Afternoon to you all – I understand that there are representatives and participants present here today from across the broad spectrum of New Zealand’s disaster risk reduction community here today.

It is indeed wonderful to see representatives from national government, local authorities, academia, civil society as well as the private sector all with a shared interest in protecting lives and livelihoods.

A very warm welcome to you all. Before I begin my short talk, I would like to first thank the organizers of today’s event, in particular our hosts Tonkin and Taylor as well as the University of Auckland, Emerald and National Science Challenges.

The United Nations very much appreciates this opportunity to discuss with you what is probably the defining issue of this and almost certainly future generations: how to further build and protect our individual and collective wellbeing in an era of escalating climate and disaster risk.

Let me start with the stark reality of the challenge we already face: Climate change is already the great risk multiplier, amplifying disaster losses in terms of human lives, livelihoods and the wider social, economic and environmental context.

Climate change is:

  • Generating more powerful storms,
  • Exacerbating coastal flooding,
  • Raising temperatures; and
  • Making droughts more common and protracted.

Climate-related disasters are now coming to places which historically were not disaster prone. No community across the world is immune.

It is the major element of the more inter-connected, systemic and complex riskscape that New Zealand and countries all around the world are facing.

Of all the disasters recorded over the past 30 years, 90% are related to climate change and extreme weather events.

Earlier this year, the UN’s Asia Pacific Disaster Report predicted that none of the SDGs would be achieved in the world’s most populous and dynamic and disaster-prone region without much greater efforts in climate and disaster risk reduction.

Urgent action is needed to strengthen environmental protection and combat climate change, as well as the provision of clean water and sanitation.

Globally, disasters push 26 million people into poverty and displace over 20 million people every year, depriving them of the access to health care and education for their children that they need.

In nearby Fiji, the government’s progress report on implementation of the SDGs – the so-called Voluntary National Review – estimated that an average of 25,000 people a year were pushed into poverty by disasters; that represents 3% of the country’s population.

Escalating direct and indirect losses act as a massive dent to future development. The cost of recovery after damage to housing, as well as infrastructure such as health and educational facilities, transport links, telecommunications, water and power supplies is often huge.

In April this year, early warnings and the evacuation of over one million people ensured that many lives were saved when Cyclone Fani struck Odisha, India. 89 people lost their lives as compared with 10,000 when a similar storm struck the same coast twenty years earlier.

Unfortunately, it is estimated that it will take up to ten years for the affected areas to recover from cyclone Foni.

500,000 homes, 6,000 schools and 1,000 health facilities were destroyed – critical infrastructure that was not built to last or to the standard required to resist storm surge and high wind speeds. One estimate is that total damage is $1.7 billion. If a small fraction of that money had been invested in resilience the savings could have been enormous.

Building back better in such circumstances is a huge task. And, it is not just about the physical infrastructure, it is also about listening and attending to the needs of the poor who lose most in these situations.

A clearer understanding of climate and disaster risk is showing that fatalities and displacement are increasingly influenced by poverty, gender, mobility and exposure more than by the hazard itself.

This is a critical point to reflect on: It compels us to shift from disaster management to disaster risk management; an approach that is much more proactive and preventative to address those factors that make a disaster worse: unplanned urban development, depletion of ecosystems, growing inequality among others.

Faced with such a daunting scenario, there is an overwhelming case for all sectors and all levels of both public and private sectors to collaborate much more to align efforts to reduce climate and disaster risk.

With disaster and climate risk colliding at the local level all over the world there is little justification for policymaking and action to remain fragmented as it often does at many levels. There are strong commonalities between the two in terms of hazards, vulnerability and exposure.

Risk management and a laser-like focus on poverty reduction are two of the strongest common threads that tie together the three major pillars of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: the SDGs, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Integrated climate and disk reduction strategies that are part of – or directly feed into – local and national development planning is the foundation of more resilient and sustainable development.

Target E) of the Sendai Framework calls for the development and implementation of national and local DRR strategies by the end of next year, 2020. There is an increasing acceptance that these strategies have to be much more ‘climate smart’ than has been the norm in the past.

In reality, few such DRR plans are incorporating the dynamic nature of climate risk, particularly at local levels. Failure to include climate change scenarios in the assessment and addressing of disaster risk leads to a waste of effort and resources.

Another challenge is that DRR and climate policies are often created in different parts of government and do not explicitly link to national development planning and budgeting. While such governance is well intentioned it is ineffective and again wasteful in terms of resources.

Such an integration can only be possible when silos are broken in the process of planning and implementation of policies.

On top of that there are four other important elements to consider:

  • First, for governance to work for the people, it has to be from the people. In other words, while government takes the lead policy and strategy has to be developed in an inclusive manner. This is an area in which New Zealand is justifiably proud.
  • Second, is the crucial issue of data. Data has to be accessible, common, useful, usable and used. This will translate into better and more granular risk assessment at the local level that very much take account of changing climate scenarios.

  • Third, a strong institution with a coordinating mandate has to lead and oversee the process. 

  • Fourth, financing has to be dedicated for the effort and act as a source of coherence rather than separation. For developing countries – with the major increase in climate related financing, this, in particular, is a major issue.

If we are serious about reducing climate and disaster risk, we need to abolish fragmentation at all levels and in all areas.

I am happy to note that New Zealand’s new National Disaster Resilience Strategy, which came into effect on 10 April this year is a global example on many levels including a more rounded and holistic understanding of and approach to resilience.

The Strategy has many interesting elements, including a strong focus on wellbeing and prosperity, incorporating The Treasury’s Living Standards Framework. It considers the ‘types’ of resilience ‘needed to protect and grow NZ’s wellbeing’. It talks about intergenerational wellbeing based on ‘The Four Capitals’ – Natural, Social, Human and Financial/Physical Capital. A better understanding of and attempt to work ‘with’ culture was referenced as key to more effective risk management.

Encouragingly, the Sendai Framework was a major reference in its development. The strategy’s conclusion is particularly powerful: It aspires to change the narrative and deliver a ‘triple dividend of resilience’ of avoiding disaster losses; forging a stronger economy because of reduced disaster risk and associated societal co-benefits.

At the international level I can assure you that my organization the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction – UNDRR – is working hard and in partnership to achieve such a triple dividend more widely.

The Sendai Framework Monitor is one tool supporting the first pillar of this triple dividend: Avoiding disaster losses. It does so by enabling countries to better account for losses such as number of people killed, number of people affected by disasters, economic losses, and damage to critical infrastructure and basic services.

Consistent disaster loss accounting enables countries to identify gaps in protection and steers policy towards reducing disaster risk and associated losses.

116 countries – including New Zealand – are using the Sendai Framework Monitor for this purpose. In so doing, these countries are also providing a global picture of progress and challenges in the implementation of the Sendai Framework and its 38 indicators. It is an emerging success story in terms of strengthened accountability of governments.

I want to now turn my attention to the Pacific region – one that New Zealand is both a proud member as well as a consistent development partner.

The small island developing states of the Pacific have been global pioneers in adopting an integrated approach to climate and disaster risk reduction. It has focused planning efforts, reduced the burden on constrained government resources and has revealed to be a more commonsense and appropriate approach at the community level.

Tonga pioneered this at the national level through the so-called Joint National Action Plan processes (JNAPs) in 2010.

The climate and disaster risk-informed recovery budget of the Government of Tonga after last year’s cyclone Gita is a testament to the positive impact this approach to governance is having.

Regional policy guidelines have also embraced the wisdom of coherence, most notably the landmark Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific: An Integrated Approach to Address Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management 2017-2030.

With sea-level rises in some countries four times greater than the global average, Pacific island countries and territories need to maintain a watchful eye that their governance is ‘fit for purpose’ in the face of escalating climate and disaster risk.

The growing phenomenon of climate and disaster induced migration, displacement and relocation is a prime example of the changing riskscape in many countries.

As coastal areas or degraded inland areas become uninhabitable, more people will be compelled to seek safety and better lives elsewhere. The very survival of communities and countries is at stake in the very near future.

While the challenges are immense, I do want to conclude my talk on a positive note which talks to the need to develop more and further reaching genuine and enduring partnerships to address the climate crisis we are facing. I see clear evidence of such partnerships here in New Zealand. This is a fact to be celebrated, built upon and championed well beyond your borders.

UNDRR’s partnership with New Zealand – both its Government and the wider so-called NZ. Inc of civil society, academia, private sector and others – is one which delivers results. Let me highlight just three:


  • New Zealand’s innovative approaches in disaster resilience are shared to influence a global audience in such areas as inclusive risk governance, tsunami preparedness planning and the private sector’s potential role in earthquake recovery

  • Second, both New Zealand and UNDRR work closely to support the Pacific Resilience Partnership – the mechanism mandated by Pacific leaders to support the so-called FRDP: The Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific. This work includes the development of ‘resilience standards’ to help address vulnerabilities and build capacities

  • Third, New Zealand and UNDRR collaborate to ensure that the voice and experience of both New Zealand and the Pacific is heard loud and clear at regional and global policy forums on DRR. This occurred in May at the Global Platform for DRR in Geneva. And it will occur again next year when we both partner in support of the Government of Australia’s hosting of next year’s Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on DRR in Brisbane.

So, on this note I would like to conclude my talk today. Again, I would like to thank the organizers for this opportunity to speak with you all today. It has been my pleasure to be here in Auckland today.

Before we open the floor, I’d like to invite my two colleagues who are here supporting me today to join me to help discuss your comments and questions:

  • Ms Lori Hieber-Girardet, UNDRR’s Director for Asia Pacific who is based in Bangkok
  • Mr Andy McElroy, UNDRR’s Head of Pacific Office who is based in Suva


Thank you

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