Remarks by Ms. Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, on the High-Level Launch of the “2020 State of the Climate Report”

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United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

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Remarks by Ms. Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction

High-Level Launch of the  “2020 State of the Climate Report”

13 October 2020

 

Prof. Petteri Taalas,

Fellow speakers and participants,

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you on this special day for all of us, the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, and for marking it with the launch of your 2020 State of Climate Services Report.

This report is a timely and important contribution to the disaster risk reduction agenda and there are some promising signs that the international community is willing to act on its recommendations.

Earlier today, we announced that the Italian government is giving three million Euros to improve multi-hazard early warning in support of an Africa-wide plan developed with the African Union. The goal is to support the expansion of multi-hazard early warning systems across the continent and the emphasis will be very much on impact-based warnings that will trigger early action to reduce disaster losses

And as WMO has highlighted so clearly in this report, least developed countries in Africa as well as small island developing states are in particular need of funding to fill the capacity gaps in early warning systems, one of the most crucial elements of good disaster risk governance.

Today, UNDRR is drawing attention to Target E of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which seeks a substantial increase in the number of national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction by the end of this year. This is the foundation for all risk governance. UNDRR with its sister UN organizations have been making strenuous efforts in supporting Member States to have in place these strategies aligned with the Sendai Framework by the end of this year. 

Five years after the Sendai Framework was adopted, we now count 93 UN member States as having national strategies for disaster risk reduction in place.

I do see this as a glass half-empty rather than half-full, there should be more at this point.

Furthermore, an ongoing review of these national strategies shows that more needs to be done to improve their quality, including coherence across both the disaster risk and climate agendas.

Having a national strategy, a plan in place, is an essential part of strengthening your disaster risk governance. A failure to plan is a plan for failure.

Good governance also requires vision and competent institutions like well-resourced national meteorological services performing their public service based on science and evidence.

The most obvious hallmark of good disaster risk governance is that you take timely action to reduce loss of life, and that is exactly what multi-hazard early warning systems combined with early action are meant to do.

The Sendai Framework has seven global targets. One of them is a target for reducing loss of life, and there is another target for substantially increasing the availability of, and access to, multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information. Ensuring that early warning systems apply a multi-risk dimension and include new and emerging risks is a critical requirement for their central role in disaster risk reduction efforts.

In this context, let me refer to the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Initiative and the Risk-informed Early Action Partnership (REAP) as global examples, that aim at supporting countries by improving their early warning capabilities through a multi-risk approach.

Our data collected through the Sendai Framework Monitor tells us that of the 93 countries with national strategies in place, just 64 reported to have some form of multi-hazard early warning system.

The challenge comes into clear focus when one learns that this number includes just 5% of SIDS, 34% of LDCs and 50% of Landlocked Developing Countries.

At the same time, we know that these countries suffer a disproportionate percentage of disaster losses.

These losses are difficult to avoid if you do not have an early warning system in place which leads to early actions such as evacuations and allows measures to be taken to protect your home and place of work from a flood or a storm.

That is why we are working to ensure that public broadcasting unions that provide TV and radio services to billions around the world are included in early warning systems and activities.

We know that accurate and timely information dissemination through tv, radio and printed media impacts positively on populations, preparing them for disasters and alerting them to increasing disaster risk.

This year, we are rolling out an online course to all public broadcasting unions in the Caribbean. We will expand this to Africa next year: training journalists to provide accurate information before a disaster strikes to allow people time to escape. We are very glad for WMO partnering with us to work with national meteorological bodies.

The work of WMO and its members in delivering impact-based weather forecasts has brought many benefits to humanity and helped significantly reduce disaster losses around the world.

Today we call on the international community to build further on this solid foundation and to enhance international cooperation to those countries who are bearing the brunt of climate change but lack the resources to adapt appropriately.

For many, their plight has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic which provides a salutary lesson to us all about how ineffective early warnings can be if they are not accompanied by early action.

I know that a case study on Bangladesh figures in this report and I would like to cite its Cyclone Preparedness Programme as an example of good disaster risk governance in action.

According to official government figures, a million people died in the great cyclone of November 1970 in the absence of early warnings and the sophisticated weather observation systems we have today.

Since then we have seen cyclone shelters spring up along the coast and thousands of volunteers recruited through the Bangladesh Red Crescent to disseminate early warning to ensure safe and timely evacuations. An astonishing two million people were evacuated in November last year before Cyclone Bulbul made landfall and just 19 people lost their lives.

This is disaster risk governance in action, and we need many more of these best practices. We need many more countries following the example of Italy to provide the much-needed funding to develop multi-hazard early warning systems in all continents.

I would like to close my remarks by making our commitment that WMO can count on UNDRR’s support when making the case for sustainable financing of the global observation system that underpins early warning.

Thank you for your attention.

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