Lunch Time Talk at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

Oct 14, 2013

Opening Remarks

by

Michelle Gyles-McDonnough
United Nations Resident Coordinator,
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei
Darussalam,
and
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Representative for
Malaysia

Singapore

Salutations:
·        Prof. Dodo J  Thampapillai, Visiting Professor, Lee Kuan Yew, School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
·        Mr. Andrew Maskrey, Chief of the Risk Knowledge Section and Coordinator of the United Nations Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR) , United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)

Thank you for inviting UNDP and allowing myself to speak for introductory remarks to this gracious event.

The evolution of disaster management thinking and practice since the 1970s has seen a progressively wider and deeper understanding of why disasters happen, accompanied by more integrated, holistic approaches to reduce their impact on society. The modern paradigm of disaster management — disaster risk reduction (DRR) — represents the latest step along this path. DRR is a relatively new concept in formal terms, but it embraces much earlier thinking and practice. It is being widely embraced by international agencies, governments, disaster planners and civil society organisations.

There have been growing calls for greater clarity about the components of DRR and about indicators of progress toward resilience — a challenge that the international community took up at the UN’s World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) in Kobe, Japan, in 2005, only days after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. The WCDR began the process of pushing international agencies and national governments beyond the vague rhetoric of most policy statements and toward setting clear targets and commitments for DRR. The first step in this process was the formal approval at the WCDR of the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005–2015) (HFA). This is the first internationally accepted framework for DRR.

Created in December 1999, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), whom Andrew is representing, is the secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). It is the successor to the secretariat of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction with the purpose of ensuring the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (General Assembly (GA) resolution 54/219).

UNISDR is part of the United Nations Secretariat and its functions span the development and humanitarian fields. Its core areas of work includes ensuring disaster risk reduction (DRR) is applied to climate change adaptation, increasing investments for DRR, building disaster-resilient cities, schools and hospitals, and strengthening the international system for DRR.

The Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR) is a biennial global assessment of disaster risk reduction and comprehensive review and analysis of the natural hazards that are affecting humanity. The GAR contributes to achieving the Hyogo Framework of Action (HFA) through monitoring risk patterns and trends and progress in disaster risk reduction while providing strategic policy guidance to countries and the international community.

The preparation of the GAR is coordinated and supervised by UNISDR, in collaboration and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including various UN agencies, governments, academic and research institutions, donors and technical organizations and specialists.

The GAR13 (From Shared Risk to Shared Value: The Business Case for Disaster Risk Reduction)  builds on the findings of GAR09 (Risk and Poverty in a Changing Climate, Invest Today for a Safer Tomorrow) and GAR11 (Revealing Risk, Redefining Development) and explores why increasing disaster risks represent a growing problem for the economic and business community at different scales.

The GAR13 report examines how paradoxically business investments that aimed to strengthen competitiveness and productivity may  have inadvertently contributed to increasing risk.  It also highlights the interdependence of the public  and private sectors and why business competitiveness, sustainability and resilience will also depend  on governments’ ability to manage disaster risk  through effective policies.  Generally, effective disaster risk management will become a basic requirement for competitive countries and cities that are successful in attracting business  investment.

Based on the latest Fifth assessment report of the IPCC, which was recently released on the 27 Sep 2013 at Stockholm, the Co-Chair  Mr Thomas Stocker of Working Group 1, says that “Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is projected to be likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 in all but the lowest scenario considered, and likely to exceed 2°C for the two high scenarios”, “Heat waves are very likely to occur more frequently and last longer. As the Earth warms, we expect to see currently wet regions receiving more rainfall, and dry regions receiving less, although there will be exceptions”,  "Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”. With such backdrop, disaster associated with the climate change and extreme weather events will continue to become foreseeable in the future and hence, the adaptability, preparedness, expediency and efficient recovery of member countries is highly anticipated. 

Extreme weather event such as the current powerful Typhoon Fitow, which recently rammed into eastern China, with winds up to 151km/h (93mph) and bringing heavy rains and causing widespread power cuts, is a manifestation that countries need to be always prepared and ready for any consequences and how the recovery process shall be according to the Hyogo Framework. HFA helps in building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters.

Finally, I personally wish to commend Lee Kuan Yew, School of Public Policy for organizing this very important and timely event.  Thank You.

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