Statement by SRSG Mami Mizutori - High-level launch of the 2021 edition of FAO’s report on The Impact of Disasters and Crises on Agriculture and Food Security

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

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Statement by SRSG Mami Mizutori

High-level launch of the 2021 edition of FAO’s report on The Impact of Disasters and Crises on Agriculture and Food Security

18 March 2021

FAO Director General, Dr Qu Dongyu,

Distinguished guests, speakers and participants,

Thank you for the opportunity to share some reflections today (at the launch of the 2021 edition of the FAO report on the Impact of Disasters and Crises on Agriculture and Food Security.)

The date for this launch is well chosen. Today marks the 6th anniversary of the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction at the last UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction on 18 March 2015.

I would like to congratulate FAO on keeping the promise made at that Conference to strengthen the database on loss and damage in the agriculture sector and to issue an annual publication on the impact of disasters on the agriculture sector.

Unfortunately, I think the reporting burden is growing. The world is losing ground in the battle to reduce disaster losses. We are failing to act on early warnings, failing to avoid creating new risk, failing to improve how we manage existing levels of risk, and failing to invest adequately in disaster prevention.

The report we have in front of us today is just one further proof of that. The ongoing impact of the climate emergency on agriculture worldwide is being compounded now by the impact of COVID-19 and its effects on labour, agricultural inputs and global supply chains.

Investing in disaster resilience is a priority of the Sendai Framework agreed by UN Member States who also recognised the need to “strengthen and broaden international efforts aimed at eradicating hunger and poverty through disaster risk reduction.”

The Sendai Conference took place at a time when memories were still fresh of the famine which overtook Somalia between October 2010 and April 2012. A famine which killed an estimated 260,000 people, including 133,000 children under five.

We know that more could have been done to save lives in Somalia if early warnings had been listened to. 

That’s become a familiar trope, hasn’t it? “If only early warning had led to early action….”

I am really beginning to wonder when we will learn the lesson.

COVID-19 is the biggest sign that we are wilfully ignorant.

Six years ago, UN Member States included health and biological hazards in the Sendai Framework as a key area of focus if we were to be successful in our stated goals of reducing loss of life and reducing economic losses.

Unfortunately, five years later the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, and few countries had equipped themselves to deal with it.

The COVID-19 tragedy has dwarfed all other major disasters experienced so far this century including the Somalia famine, the  Indian Ocean tsunami and the Haiti earthquake.

The world is fast approaching a stage when the impacts of systemic risk and disasters could surpass our ability to manage them. Proactive risk reduction and international cooperation are essential in the existential struggle in which we find ourselves if we are to have a sustainable and resilient future.

On the more positive side of the ledger, the last six years of Sendai Framework implementation have seen substantive progress at national and local levels to improve understanding of disaster risk and strengthen risk governance.

There are now 101 UN member States with national strategies for disaster risk reduction. These strategies are aligned to some degree with the priorities and targets for reducing disaster losses outlined in the Sendai Framework.

It is difficult to manage your disaster risk and invest intelligently in reducing that risk if you do not understand where your losses are occurring. Over 120 countries are now reporting across all Sendai Framework targets and the scale of the losses being reported in low- and middle-income countries supports the findings in this FAO report that 26% of the overall impact caused by significant disaster events is absorbed by agriculture.

In some years this percentage can be higher. Most recent UNDRR data collected through the Sendai Framework Monitor tells us that, for 2019 alone, 67% of all direct economic loss was in the agriculture sector. This is equivalent to 6.4 billion US dollars of loss across crops, livestock, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry. As national reporting improves, these figures are likely to increase.

Gathering disaster data for reports such as these remains a clear challenge. In order to improve our understanding of disaster impact and risk, more effort should be devoted to establishing national information systems for collecting and reporting disaster loss data for agriculture and other sectors of the global economy. Improving our metrics will guide and improve our investments in preparedness, prevention and response.

Today we are all painfully aware of the fact that 88 million people are suffering from acute hunger in situations where extreme weather adds to their torment, notably in conflict settings like Syria and Yemen which are among the most-drought prone countries in the world. 

Disasters inflict damage and destruction on agricultural production. They are drivers of hunger and malnutrition. The latest example is from Central America, where countries are grappling with the impacts of recent Hurricanes Eta and Iota. These events disrupted production, destroyed assets, brought spikes in food prices and disrupted availability and access to food. All of this is happening in the midst of an ongoing pandemic

It is more and more important that we take opportunities to pause and learn so that we improve. In the coming year or so, there will be five Regional Platforms for disaster risk reduction organized by UNDRR and the host countries. These will be opportunities to take stock of progress in implementing the Sendai Framework and evaluating the successes and challenges in implementing national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction.

They will also be important opportunities to investigate what is working and what still needs to be done in terms of international cooperation to developing countries. This is target (f) of the Sendai Framework and will also be the focus of this year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on October 13.

These Regional Platforms will be occasions to continue the work that began at the 2015 World Conference on exploring new ways of working on DRR in fragile and complex contexts through context specific and people-centred approaches that address the root causes of vulnerability. These issues will be major features of the next Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction which will take place in Indonesia in 2022.

Investing in DRR can lead to great outcomes. We have seen significant reductions in loss of life from extreme weather events despite their growing intensity and frequency because of investments in early warnings, preparedness and response.

However, we need to scale up and strengthen risk governance to avoid being blind-sided by future events in the way we were by COVID-19.

I would like to close by announcing that UNDRR this year will publish A Special Report on Drought under the banner of GAR, our biennial Global Assessment Report. My hope is that it will enrich the debate and search for solutions that the FAO report has helped to trigger today.

Drought affects more people than most other natural hazards. The climate emergency is amplifying its impacts in many parts of the world. Our Special Report prepared in consultation with FAO and other valued partners will build a case for a new approach to drought risk management.

Thank you for your attention.