Statement by SRSG Mami Mizutori, GNDR Local Leadership for Global Impact: ‘How has COVID 19 made risk-informed development more critical than ever?

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
SRSG Mami Mizutori


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Statement by SRSG Mami Mizutori


‘How has COVID 19 made risk-informed development more critical than ever?’

6 OCTOBER 2020

Thank you for inviting me to speak at the opening session of the first ever digital Global Summit.

The world is experiencing an unprecedented moment of fragility and uncertainty, resulting from “mutually exacerbating catastrophes”.

At UNDRR, we believe the crisis provides an opportunity to transform, and COVID-19 has taught us many new and reinforced lessons. 

Take a look at the challenges the world around is facing, from the global to the local, COVID-19, increased poverty, famine, civil conflict, lack of job security, climate change, the common connection is risk.

We have no option but to change how we reduce risk and manage risk, because this is fundamental to achieving sustainable development.

Collaboration across sectors, and critically, with multi-stakeholders, including civil society organisations, this can ensure that we meet lifesaving needs, while also ensuring longer-term investment in addressing the systemic causes of vulnerability and poverty.

So, what are the lessons we have learned over the past eight months during which time we have been fighting this terrible, devastating pandemic?

The first is that risk and its impact can be tangibly, and relatively quickly reduced when tackled at the local level.

While multilateral organisations, like the World Health Organisation have provided important global level advice, the majority of activities have taken place at the local level.

Meaningful investment in human and system capability has made the difference between an effective response and a disaster. However, we know that overall, DRR investment is under-realised, to say the least. A recent study funded by EU that UNDRR issued, found that across 16 countries in Africa, on average, DRR investments accounts for only 4% of their national budgets. This a pitiful level of funding for prevention, which saves lives.

It does get better at the local level as we found out by comparing spending on DRR at the national and subnational level, in a few African countries.

And, we were not surprised, because local governments are usually the first responders when a disaster strikes. Local level is where disaster risk reduction has traction and where investment responds to direct needs. Failures and successes are quick to spot.

That is why, in working with our partners, the Stakeholder Engagement Mechanism, the SEM as we call it, is important.

SEM brings together all stakeholders, breaking down silos, and importantly, it is a key mechanism to make voices from communities and most affected groups heard.

We appreciate GNDR’s leadership and engagement in the SEM, making it the ‘go to’ network for disaster risk reduction, prevention and resilience.

The second lesson is that we are not dealing with the unknown, many times we already know what needs to be done.

The Sendai Framework, the global blueprint for DRR, calls on the world to stop trying to manage disasters after they strike us, and instead to manage risk before they break our lives.

We have to break free from the vicious cycle of disaster-respond-recover, and repeat, which is costing billions of dollars.

We can put all the financing we want into the SDGs, but if we don’t finance risk reduction, we will never be able to achieve the SDGs. We have to invest in prevention.

And we have to invest in prevention while we are recovering.

Priority four of the Sendai Framework, which is known as the BBB priority,  highlights the need to ‘link…relief, rehabilitation and development, and to, use opportunities during the recovery phase to develop capacities that reduce disaster risk in the short, medium and long term’.

That is why when we talk about recovering better from COVID-19, we insist on a comprehensive recovery which is resilient, green and equitable.

We need to urgently account for disaster risks within all public and private financing and investment, starting with making risk-informed decisions when we invest the trillions of dollars for economic stimulus to recover from COVID-19.

The third is failure to plan, is a plan for failure. On 13 October, next week, UNDRR together with communities all over the world will celebrate the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.

In keeping with the Day’s focus on the impact that disasters have on lives and well-being, this theme for this year is to convey the message that many disasters can be prevented if there is a risk-informed plan in place, to manage and reduce existing levels of risk and to avoid the creation of new risk. What that amounts to is “good governance.” It is really all about good risk governance.

What does it mean to have a good risk governance structure in place? It means that those countries which develop policy, legislative and institutional frameworks for disaster risk reduction, based on the targets and priorities for action of the Sendai Framework, they have greater capacity to manage risk.

We do hope you are planning to host events in your local communities for IDDRR, and to share this message of ‘good risk governance’ with your local authorities. Planning is the sure sign that authorities are putting the public good first.

This is nowhere more important than at the local level. We have seen that cities and local governments are at the forefront of the COVID-19 response, and they will lead the way as we aim to recover.

Soon after that Day, with our partners, we will launch the new Making Cities Resilient 2030, on 28 October, the last day of ICLEI, the Local Governments for Sustainability’s ‘Daring Cities’ forum.

Over the past 10 years, more than 4,500 cities have joined its precursor, the Making Cities Resilient Campaign, and we are excited to make the next steps with these cities and many more.

The MCR2030 aims to help local governments achieve risk informed development by implementation of sound and inclusive strategies for disaster risk reduction. Partnering with civil society to deliver risk-informed development will be critical for its success.

In closing, let me say that COVID-19 has wreaked tragedy on every level of our lives and livelihoods. The greatest tragedy however will be if we don’t learn, and if we do not persevere in reducing risk from our planet.

Changing behaviors and systems is not easy, and requires all of us to work together. And, we need to go to scale. That is where our civil society partners come in.

I look forward to learning today how we can do this with all of you. 2021 will be a critical year.

We value our long-standing partnership with GNDR, and I wish you a very successful and stimulating Digital Global Summit!

Thank you very much.

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