Opening Remarks by SRSG Mami Mizutori at the Ministerial and High-Level Authorities Meeting at the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction for the Americas and Caribbean

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

Opening Remarks by SRSG Mami Mizutori at the  Ministerial and High-Level Authorities Meeting

3 November 2021

Regional Platform for DRR in the Americas and the Caribbean

Chair, Hon. Minister Desmond McKenzie, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development.

Ministers and High-Level Authorities of the countries of the Americas & the Caribbean

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to welcome you to this Ministerial and High-Level Authorities Meeting, in the framework of the Regional Platform for DRR in the Americas & the Caribbean, hosted for the first time by a Caribbean nation, Jamaica, albeit virtually, and co-organized together with the Caribbean Disaster Management Agency, CDEMA.

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

Long-standing norms have been upended.

Our lives have been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the restraint it has imposed on human behaviour, and the socio-economic impacts we are facing.

The pandemic has shown the extent to which a disaster can wipe out decades of development gains in an instant. It has also shown the vulnerability of some countries, particularly Small Island Caribbean States, to the second and third grade impacts, particularly in their economies.  

It is now estimated that this pandemic could cost the global economy some US$21 trillion. Current expenditure on disaster risk reduction pales into insignificance by comparison.

Considering these profound challenges, it is only right that we use the occasion of this Regional Platform to ask hard questions about what immediate and short-term transformations need to take place to address risk and re-embark in a path of growth and development.

COVID-19 has brought to vivid life what systemic risk and complex risk scenarios mean. On top of dealing with the pandemic, we experienced a very active hurricane season in both the Atlantic and the Pacific last year, volcano eruptions, wildfires, technological hazards. We are challenged in our capacities to handle multiple hazards impacting at the same time.

Unfortunately, the global pandemic disaster jeopardizes our global efforts to fight poverty and inequality. This region, in particular, has observed the largest impact in terms of the economy and employment, further deepening the structural challenges.

Even without considering the pandemic, the region concentrates 9 out of the 10 countries and territories that have had the highest percentage of disaster-related economic losses in relation to the GDP over the last 20 years [CRED / UNDRR], particularly Caribbean nations. And in quantitative terms, the region already absorbed, before the pandemic, 53% of the global economic losses resulting from climate-related disasters.   

But every disaster is also an opportunity, and I am particularly interested in the discussions being held and the approaches being advanced in this region, given that in many ways the Americas and the Caribbean are at the forefront when it comes to disaster risk reduction.

The Americas & the Caribbean have produced some outstanding examples of how strong disaster governance, executed with vision, competence, trust and transparency, can prevent unnecessary loss of life.

Furthermore, it is a region that over the last 40 years has actively contributed to the development of the disaster risk reduction conceptual and evidence-based knowledge that shaped important global agreements including the Sendai Framework.

The multi-sectorial representation around this table is a reason for hope.

There is in fact much pioneering work going on in the region which can inform how we make disaster risk governance fit for the 21st century, whether it is engaging the private sector, promoting urban resilience or greater coherence between climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, especially in the context of Caribbean SIDS.

Good risk governance is important because we are in real danger of not achieving the Sendai Framework targets for reducing disaster losses, and we know that nothing undermines sustainable development like disasters or the recurrence of a pandemic such as the world faces today.

Building resilience to climate change and reducing disaster risk and losses is vital to save lives and livelihoods, eradicate poverty and hunger and achieve the SDGs. 

We only have eight years to achieve the SDGs and fully implement the Sendai Framework. As we speak, leaders are meeting in Glasgow to harness more support and a greater ambition for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The COVID-19 recovery packages and commitments to ‘build back better’, the transition to low-carbon and resilient economies and the decade of action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals all present opportunities to align development, climate and environmental policies and investments with the goal of the Sendai Framework to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risk.

The rest of the world looks to you as thought leaders and innovators, not only when it comes to developing disaster risk reduction frameworks, but also in the way you promote and implement an all-of-society approach.

International development cooperation and solidarity is key to recover from the pandemic, fight climate change, address the underlying factors of risk and embark on a path of resilience and must be strengthened. Only together can we make true progress towards a safer and more resilient planet.

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