UNDRR to boost number of LDCs with national DRR strategies


Denis McClean

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
Africa children in Guinea Bissau
Children playing in Guinea-Bissau, one of Africa's LDCs

LDCs Ambassadorial Climate Change and Risk-Informed development Briefing: Road to Doha Series

March 25, 2021

It is a pleasure to be with you this morning. I would like to thank the Government of Malawi for the invitation to participate both today and at the Africa and Haiti Regional Review Meeting in February.

I take these invitations as welcome signs of your commitment to disaster risk reduction.

Climate Change remains the greatest existential threat of the 21st Century and nowhere is this more obvious than in the world’s Least Developed Countries.

Extreme weather events along with the global COVID-19 pandemic are undermining the economic development of LDCs to a degree never seen before.

They are also detrimental to the achievement of the SDGs and a key reason why so many countries and communities are being left behind.

Recent analysis by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction shows that over the last twenty years when economic losses are expressed in terms of percentage of GDP, the worst-hit nations are all low-income countries.

Among more than 120 countries reporting across all Sendai Framework targets for disaster losses, LDCs account for 48% of livelihood disruptions, 40% of deaths, 17% of economic losses, and 14% of infrastructure damage.

This is the case even though among the reporting countries, their combined GDP amounts to only 1% of the total; and their combined populations are just 18% of the total population.

The inequality and disparity are stark.

Economic resilience is an area that we need to pay more attention to when we advocate for disaster risk reduction. Recent research suggests that it is just as important a part of building resilience to disasters as disaster preparedness and early warning systems.

As the Secretary-General said earlier this year, in response to the current global crisis, the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative and debt relief must be expanded to all developing countries that need it.

LDCs are made more vulnerable by deep-rooted poverty, lower investment in resilient infrastructure and health services, the climate emergency, COVID-19, unplanned urbanization and other factors.

It is six years since the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which calls for special attention to be given to the LDCs, and ten years since the adoption of the Istanbul Programme of Action which has disaster risk reduction embedded in its priority area for action on “multiple crises and other emerging challenges”.

The General Assembly resolution on the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action and the political declaration of its high-level mid-term review in 2016 link the implementation of the Sendai Framework to the achievement of the Programme of Action.

It is high time for a programme of action for the LDCs which has disaster risk reduction at its core. The LDC-5 Conference is the last chance to do this before 2030.

Integrating disaster risk reduction within policies for structural transformation, productive capacities, infrastructure development, health and education, and sustainable agriculture will ensure that policy investment decisions made today will not create risk for current and future generations.

Investing in disaster risk reduction can ensure LDCs are more resilient to the next pandemic, the next global economic downturn and the next climate catastrophe.

The Sendai Framework recognizes that strengthening disaster risk governance is at the heart of effective and efficient management of disaster risk. This applies to natural and man-made hazards as well as related biological, environmental and technological hazards.

Risk governance requires clear vision, plans, competence, guidance and coordination within and across sectors of government and full engagement with civil society and the private sector.

The clear manifestation of this is the creation of strong well-resourced institutions tasked not just with disaster response but the management of disaster risk; and acting always in the public good with a focus on the interests of the most vulnerable segments of society.

Last year was the Sendai Framework deadline for a substantial increase in the number of countries with national strategies for disaster risk reduction.

To date, we have 101 countries with such strategies that are aligned to some degree with the targets and priorities for action of the Sendai Framework.

These are very simple targets on paper:

  • The reduction of loss of life;
  • The reduction of the numbers of people affected by disasters;
  • Reductions in economic losses which impact on revenues available for improving access to health and education;
  • And reductions in damage to critical infrastructure, especially schools and health facilities;

Unfortunately, to date only 20 of the 46 LDCs recognized by the UN have put such strategies in place, or at least so notified UNDRR.

It is evident that much greater international support is needed.

It is UNDRR’s ambition that when the LDC5 Conference takes place in Doha, next January, hosted by the Government of Qatar, that most if not all LDCs will have national strategies for disaster risk reduction in place.

Greater international cooperation for developing countries in implementing the Sendai Framework is essential to the success of these national strategies.

International cooperation that supports LDCs to collect disaster loss data, install multi-hazard early warning systems, increase public access to disaster risk information, assessments and climate forecasts, must be a priority in the next programme of action.

Much greater international support is also needed for resilient infrastructure, basic services and housing, as well as resilient agriculture and risk-informed land use planning.

All of this requires scaling up international support in the form of financing, capacity building, and technology transfer.

The Doha Programme of action must therefore be a clarion call for bi-lateral donors, IFIs and global and regional development banks to align their support to the LDCs with the implementation of the provisions of the Sendai Framework.

As more countries seek to graduate from LDC status, integrating disaster risk reduction into domestic policy and international support is essential to ensure graduation is sustainable.

A special effort is needed in Africa which has the majority of LDCs.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world now realizes more than ever before how inseparable disaster risk reduction is from sustainable development.

Nothing undermines sustainable development like a disaster. Only prevention saves lives.

Thank you for your attention.

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