Triple test for public-private partnerships

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

GENEVA, 15 July 2014 – Future progress to reduce disaster risk rests, in large part, on expanded and stronger public-private sector partnerships, the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction heard today.

Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer of AECOM Technology Corporation Gary Lawrence said solutions and actions within the context of such partnership must be: technically feasible; economically viable; and politically acceptable.

“These variables will be in constant flux. Given uncertainties and the need to balance risk-sharing, public-private partnerships must be founded on conditions of trust and regulatory clarity,” Mr Lawrence told the ‘Investing in Disaster Risk Reduction Technical’ forum.

“The business opportunities associated with helping optimize conditions for human development in risk environments are great. To realize these opportunities the public and private sectors must work together to create enabling environments in which all parties’ objectives are met.”

Mr Lawrence leads AECOM’s sustainability efforts across its USD8-billion business as provider of professional technical and management support services, which employs 45,000 people and works in more than 140 countries. AECOM’s workforce includes architects, engineers, designers, planners, scientists and management and construction services professionals.

The Deputy Director of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis’ (IIASA) Programme on Risk Policy and Vulnerability, Dr. Reinhard Mechler, said the economic and fiscal case for disaster risk reduction has been made and such risk considerations are increasingly influential in public investment decisions.

“There has been considerable progress in public sector risk management and many countries – such as Mexico, Holland, and Peru – are focusing on risk detection,” Dr. Mechler said.

“However we need to work more holistically towards resilience; there is a need to increase the focus on public-private partnerships to better understand, model and manage disaster risk.” Dr. Mechler said the good work in the insurance and reinsurance sectors needs to spread to other sectors such as transport and real estate.

The Chief Research Officer of Risk Management Solutions Dr. Robert Muir-Wood highlighted the importance of data and the ability to chart progress. He recited a quote from the former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, around the impacts of climate change to illustrate the point.

“’If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’. We should identify and react to those systemic factors that drive risk, like the tens of millions of dangerous concrete buildings constructed without engineers. We should deliver risk information using the latest smartphone technology. And we should measure our progress through global standards for risk auditing,” Dr. Muir-Wood said.

H. E. Ambassador Kenichi Suganuma, in Charge of the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, of Japan, chaired the session, which was attended by more than 300 people, including ministers, ambassadors, various other senior government officials as well as representatives from the private sector, science, and several sectors of civil society – including young people, women, and people living with disabilities.

The forum was told that development of the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction presents a clear opportunity for countries, businesses and other stakeholders to position disaster risk appropriately in investment decision-making.

In May 2013 at the launch of the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: "Economic losses from disasters are out of control and can only be reduced in partnership with the private sector which is responsible for 70% to 85% of all investment worldwide in new buildings, industry and small to medium sized enterprises.”

The first session of the Preparatory Committee of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is being held over two days to review the organizational and substantive preparations for the Conference, approve the programme of work of the Conference, and propose rules of procedure for adoption by the Conference.

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