Statement by Ms. Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction to the European Committee of the Regions - 140th Plenary Session

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

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Statement by Ms. Mami Mizutori

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction

European Committee of the Regions 140th Plenary Session
Monday 12 October 2020, virtual


President Tzitzikostas,

Mr Rapporteur,

Members of the European Committee of the Regions,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for welcoming me here today. 

I am honoured to address the 140th Plenary of the European Committee of the Regions in the discussions driven by Mr Cirio’s Opinion on a Reinforced European Civil Protection Mechanism. 

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

Long-standing norms have been upended.

The way we live.

The way we communicate with each other.

The way we work and study. Or cannot work or be educated as is the case now for many.

Our lives have been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restraint it has imposed on all our lives.

In addition, it is now estimated that this pandemic could cost the global economy some US$21 trillion. Sadly, Europe is not spared. In early September, the EU reported GDP down by 11.8% and employment down by 2.9% in the euro area.

Considering these profound changes, it is only right that we use the occasion of this year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, the 13th of October, tomorrow, to ask hard question about our capacity to manage disaster risk.

This crisis is everyone’s business. It is also clear that local and regional governments are on the frontline of this crisis, as in the case of most disasters. The work of building resilience and reducing risk cannot proceed without local and regional governments.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction – the global framework that seeks a substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health – pays special attention to the engagement at the local level and the role of local and regional actors, in particular.

In many ways Europe – its cities and regions at its heart - have produced some outstanding examples of how strong disaster governance executed with vision, competence, trust and transparency can avoid unnecessary loss of lives and livelihoods.

Let me highlight a concrete example from President Cirio’s own region, Piemonte, in Italy, where the City of Cuneo has responded to the pandemic crisis by investing in the resilience of the manufacturing and tourism sector, as an essential part of recovery from the socio-economic consequences of this pandemic.

Good disaster risk governance requires imagination, common sense, and more than anything determined leadership.

And I am truly encouraged to see such a level of determination and commitment expressed by putting this topic on top of your agenda today.

Good governance has never been as important as it is today, because, at this moment, we are in real danger of not achieving either the Sendai Framework global targets for reducing disaster losses, the Paris Agreement or any of the SDGs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Solidarity and international cooperation is key to both response to disasters and recovery efforts from them. Mutual support and shared learning across your regions will help to build back better with resilience at the core.  

The European Union, through its Recovery Package, through its European Civil Protection Mechanism, is a clear demonstration of such solidarity between nations and stakeholders.

While the need for mechanisms which enable adequate response, preparedness and better recovery from disasters are clear,  as COVID-19 has taught us, the case for prevention and for resilience building have to move forward at the same time and that is exactly what is coming out from the reinforced Union Civil Protection Mechanism.

Europe’s solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic to respond, recover from and prevent that risk turn into disasters relies more than ever on your cities and regions.

The Opinion presented here today goes a long way towards reinforcing this reality and supporting the European Union to achieve the global targets for disaster resilience including having more national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction in place by the end of this year.

At the global level, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction with its partners, including ICLEI, UCLG, UN-Habitat and the World Bank Group, will launch the Making Cities Resilient 2030 initiative,  later this month. This is the opportunity, a movement  to improve support to cities and regions engaged to not only have their plans and strategies for  the resilience but to implement them. In this decade long movement, starting January next year, strengthening the vertical relationship amongst national, regional and local levels in order to build resilience against  climate and all other disaster risks, is positioned as a key element.

I would like call on all Committee of the Regions Members to join in reinforcing this important dimension in building resilience to disasters. Experiences from each and every region and locality represented here can only help reinforce global efforts towards increased resilience.

We often say that the worst disaster that could happen, has not happened yet.

Let us bear that in mind as we learn the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and seek to understand what is required to strengthen disaster risk governance across the region. In particular, while we are well aware that the climate emergency has gone nowhere while we are combating COVID-19.

I would once again offer my thanks to the President of the Committee of the Regions for his kind invitation to speak here today, and I look forward to working with the Committee of the Regions in advocating for a strengthened engagement of local and regional actors at the EU level and beyond.

Thank you for your attention. 

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