Remarks by SRSG Mizutori at the Symposium on Integrating Disaster Risk Management with Emergency Services and Defense to Reduce Avoidable Disaster Deaths

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


Title: Symposium on Integrating Disaster Risk Management with Emergency Services and Defense to Reduce Avoidable Disaster Deaths

Date/time: 10 December at 16h20 Geneva time

Opening Remarks: Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you to our hosts for convening this very important event today. I cannot think of a better reason to come together than using our collective knowledge toward reducing preventable deaths. Let me also thank the first responders present, who play such an integral role in the work we do, but often don’t have their voices heard in such conferences.  Thank you for all you do.

The goal of this event - reducing avoidable deaths - is one of UNDRR’s key mandates. It is linked to Target A of our guiding document, the Sendai Agreement for Disaster Risk Reduction, which was adopted in 2015.  Nearly every country in the world agreed to both Target A, substantially reducing disaster deaths by 2030, and Target B, which seeks to substantially reduce the number of people affected by disasters.

Now what does this mean in the context of the Caribbean region?  

Foremost, the Caribbean region is not only one of the most beautiful in the world, it is also one of the most disaster-prone. Three out of the ten countries most affected by extreme weather events in the last 20 years are in the Caribbean. Recent hurricanes from 2017 and 2019 - Irma, Maria, and Dorian - devastated national infrastructure across ten Caribbean islands. As a cluster of small island developing states (SIDS), the overwhelming majority of the region’s disasters are water or climate-related. And we know that the weather-related challenges facing SIDS are not expected to recede anytime soon.

The region is also exposed to other kinds of vulnerabilities, including geological hazards, rapid urbanization and a large population living along delicate coastlines. Not least of all, the ravaging impacts of Covid 19 have produced the worst economic and social upheaval in recent decades. As a result of the pandemic, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimated the economies of the Caribbean would contract by 6.2%.

Given the region’s unique vulnerability and expected trajectory, we, the disaster risk reduction community must keep apace and ensure we are as prepared as possible.

Let me speak to a few areas where UNDRR is actively involved in supporting the Caribbean region to meet its disaster and vulnerability challenges. I’d like to highlight our work in three areas: a) supporting disaster risk governance; b) building risk knowledge capacities; and c) supporting resilient investment.

First, let me begin with disaster risk governance. UNDRR works in close cooperation with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in the design, development and implementation of national strategies for disaster risk reduction, or Country Work Programmes (CWPs) as they are regionally known. As of November 2021, UNDRR has provided technical and financial support to eight CWPs. Four have already been finalized: Haiti, Dominica, St. Lucia and Guyana; and four are in the process of being adopted: Antigua and Barbuda, and, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.  In addition, UNDRR has provided technical and financial support to launch CWP’s processes in the Bahamas, Suriname and St. Kitts and Nevis; and we are also exploring similar arrangements with Belize and Jamaica.

Secondly, in regards to building risk knowledge capacities, I would like to highlight three key initiatives. UNDRR has developed ten situational analyses which include a disaster risk profile, a governance and stakeholders’ analysis, a policy coherence analysis and recommendations for the development of National Strategies for DRR. Next, UNDRR, jointly with the Stockholm Environmental Institute, is working on identifying best practices for policy coherence; specifically, how coherent are a country’s policies and national planning instruments in regards to CC/DRR/SDGs?  There are nine Caribbean countries involved in this process and [AS1] the results will provide practical guidelines to foster coherence across SDG, DRR and CCA policies in the region.

UNDRR is also supporting Caribbean countries on increasing their access to multi-hazard early warning systems, as well as disaster risk information and assessments. This relates to Target G of the Sendai Framework. To this end, and in the framework of the Climate Risk Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Caribbean initiative, we are working with the World Bank and WMO to implement a regional programme on Strengthening Hydro-Meteorological and Early Warning Services in the Caribbean.

Thirdly, in regards to supporting resilient investment, UNDRR is developing a training course on Understanding Risk Management and Risk Financing for Disaster Resilience. This course is being conducted by the Singapore-UNDRR Joint Training Programme and will be held in early 2022. Members of twenty-five countries and overseas territories have been invited; seventy-five participants from the Ministries of Finance and DRR sectors are expected to attend.

We also support resilient investment through the ARISE initiative, which enables private sector regional cooperation, under the lead of the Caribbean Chamber of Commerce (CARICHAM). ARISE provides an information and knowledge-exchange platform to its more than 30,000 members across the Caribbean. It is a hub for business resilience information, tools and best practice. Moreover, many countries have their own national ARISE networks, including Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, Grenada, BVI, Barbados, Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Now that I have spoken to some of the ways UNDRR is standing with Caribbean nations in building disaster resilience, let me address another question. Can the Sendai Framework’s first two targets be met in the Caribbean region by 2030? In other words, can we reduce disaster deaths and people affected by 2030?

Well, we certainly hope so. Some developments are indeed promising. The region has strong regional DRR structures, including the CDEMA, and they have led to collaborative disaster responses, such as after Hurricane Dorian and during the initial stages of COVID19. Many countries are also systematizing disaster risk information and integrating it into DRR Country Work Plans, which should support reaching Targets A and B. 

However, disaster risk management is still seen as the domain of specialized emergency management agencies, which could be a constraint in facing risks that are increasingly complex and interconnected. The complexity of risks might also affect responders’ capacities, which could become challenged in the context of cascading impacts, such as with COVID19. And here I would like to add: at the same time that we need to increase the resources and capacities of first responders, we also want to integrate their unique, first-hand knowledge into DRR planning processes.

Finally, an important mechanism to accelerate achievement of Sendai Framework targets is for Caribbean countries to join the Making Cities Resilient 2030 programme (MCR2030). The MCR2030 provides access to the tools and partners that can enhance urban resilience. As of 16 November, fifteen local governments from the Caribbean have joined. In October 2021, Jamaica became the first country to have all fourteen Municipal Corporations join. Santo Domingo Este from the Dominican Republic is another Caribbean city that has recently joined MCR2030. Without resilient local governments, countries cannot achieve the Sendai targets, so please help us in promoting MCR2030.

Before closing, I would like to share some information about what is coming down the line. UNDRR, in collaboration with partners, is currently developing guidelines related to Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems to be launched on 13 October 2022 – the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. These guidelines are called Words in Action (WiA), and they are based on global expertise, communities of practice and networks. There will be multiple possibilities to engage in this process, including by contributing good practices and participating in public consultations.

There are also a number of upcoming conferences that will offer opportunities to exchange on early warning systems (EWS) and other relevant topics. These include the Thematic Session on Early Warning / Early Action during 2022 Global Platform for DRR, to be held in Bali, Indonesia in May; and the Multi-hazard Early Warning Conference organized in the context of the 2022 Global Platform. The mid-term review of the Sendai Framework, which begins next year, will also offer an opportunity to take stock of SIDS progress in reducing disaster risks.

Together we are making great strides. Let’s continue working towards our goals, and specifically towards achieving Targets A and B of the Sendai Framework.   With an all-of-society approach we can create a safe and resilient future for the region and the world.

Thank you for your time and attention.



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