Opening Remarks by SRSG Mizutori at the European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction

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United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

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European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction 

November 25, 2021

Opening Ceremony Remarks 

Mrs. Mami Mizutori

Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

Your excellencies, distinguished participants;

Mr. Antonio Costa, Prime Minister, Portugal;

Mr. Eduardo Cabrita, Minister for Home Affairs, Portugal;

Mr. Benedetto Della Vedova Under-Secretary of State of External Affairs, Italy; (virtual)

Mr. Janez Lenarcic,  European Union Commissioner for Humanitarian Action and Crisis Management;

Ms. Luisa Salgueiro, Mayor of the City Matosinhos

It is an honour for me to be here today to share the duties of opening this European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction with the Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Costa.

I would like to express our thanks to the Government of Portugal for hosting us at this challenging time when Europe is once more at the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, a disaster unlike any other so far this century.

I would also like to acknowledge the collaboration and support of the European Commission, and the Council of Europe.

The priority given by these organizations to disaster risk reduction speaks volumes about how strong the support is for disaster risk governance across the region.

The inclusion of the countries of Central Asia in this Forum shows an outstanding commitment to regional cooperation to build resilience to disasters beyond the borders of Europe.

This is the first gathering of its kind following COP26 where the region was well represented and pushed hard for a greater commitment to both mitigation and adaptation.

The Glasgow conference did more to inject risk and resilience into the climate action debate than any previous COP. COP26 has clearly steered towards the conclusion that we can holdout some hope of keeping to the target of 1.5˚C of global warming if the next COP can raise levels of ambition further.

This region is probably the safest place on earth to live in view of its high standards for disaster risk management and the competence of national disaster management agencies.

Nonetheless, your TV screens have been filled in recent years with scenes of unprecedented disaster.

These have included devastating heatwaves and wildfires, from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean.

Storms, extreme rainfall events and floods have also taken many lives and washed away roads and flooded city streets. On the edge of Europe hurricanes have wreaked havoc.

There have also been several reminders of the ever-present threat of seismic risk in the form of earthquakes and active volcanos near highly populated areas, as we have seen most recently in Las Palmas.

Almost two million cases of COVID-19 were reported in Europe at the beginning of this month, the most since the pandemic started.

This coincides with the launch across Europe and Central Asia of the “Prevention Saves Lives” Campaign.  This message cannot be underestimated given the current state of the world.

Enhancing public understanding of the systemic nature of disaster risk and how risk drivers such as global warming, poverty and inequality, land use and ecological breakdown, interact to amplify the impact of any natural or man-made hazard is essential to changing attitudes and behaviours. It is time to look at disaster resilience as an investment and not a cost.

I am pleased to see the attention and commitment of Governments in Europe and Central Asia to tackle these issues. I look forward to the outcomes of the Ministerial Roundtable which is also organized under the theme of Prevention Saves Lives. 

The ministerial pledge to implement the new EFDRR Roadmap and to include a broad range of stakeholders, will help to accelerate the implementation of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 in the region and beyond.

I am sure the increasingly systemic nature of risk will surface during the Ministerial Roundtable. This will be an important opportunity to hear what lessons have been learned at the highest levels of government on how to tackle the chronic levels of under-investment in disaster risk reduction as revealed by the pandemic and the climate emergency.

This European Forum will also provide important inputs to the Mid-Term Review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which is now underway.

It is my hope that the region is also ready to make a significant contribution to the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction which takes place next May hosted by the Government of Indonesia.

I look forward to seeing many of you there.

Thank you for your attention.

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