Remarks on behalf of the Political Champions for Disaster Resilience Port-au-Prince, 21 April 2013
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Valerie Amos
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I have the privilege to address you this evening on behalf of the Political Champions for Disaster Resilience. We want to give political support to initiatives focused on helping countries and communities to cope and recover from disasters.
In the last 10 years, natural disasters have destroyed billions of lives globally, killing 1.1 million people, affecting 2.7 billion, and causing economic loss of over US$1.3 trillion.
Haiti knows only too well the implications of such recurrent catastrophes in terms of lives lost, and also economic cost. Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 cost the agricultural sector $104 million in losses, despite improvements in early warning systems.
Haiti is also one of the countries most at risk from climate change. This year alone, the US National Hurricane Center is forecasting up to 18 tropical storms, nine of them of hurricane strength, in the Western Caribbean. Haiti is exposed to a lot of risk and many people are extremely vulnerable - women and girls are particularly vulnerable.
So why are we here?
We are keen to look at the way we respond to disasters; how best we work with government, civil society and other stakeholders. The humanitarian community mostly focuses on the aftermath of a disaster. We know that we need to change the way we respond to disasters, to ensure that our response also contributes to longer-term progress. But we need to get ourselves ahead of the curve by better anticipating, preventing, mitigating, and preparing for disasters as well as reducing vulnerabilities in order to minimize the impact and losses caused by future hazards. But ours is only part of the story. Our development partners are a key part of the process. Disasters can no longer only be seen as a humanitarian endeavor; they should also be a development one.
One way of doing so is enhancing disaster resilience. The more resilient a nation and its people, the less lasting damage disasters cause and the quicker the recovery.
Resilience is about the ability of a country, its communities and individuals to prepare, plan, recover and successfully adapt to adverse events and shocks in a way that does not compromise their future.
Resilience is about investing more before disasters happen but also doing what we are already doing better. Raising awareness of how to mitigate risks, and prepare and face disasters; it is about investing in infrastructure, like building homes that can withstand earthquakes or schools that double as cyclone shelters. Disaster resilience is about saving lives, livelihoods and money by acting together now.
The new Government of Haiti national development plan offers an opportunity to bring all partners together and enable us to work more effectively together.
Earlier today we visited a neighbourhood rehabilitation project in Canapé Vert. Four hundred families who have been living in displacement camps since the earthquake have been helped by the Government and partners to move back to their old neighbourhood - a good example of people involved in rebuilding their community.
The Champions have identified Haiti as a priority - not only because of its exposure to risk but also because of the potential it offers to do things better. In the last two years, I have seen the progress which has been made.
We hope this visit will give additional impetus to the discussions amongst partners on ways to make resilience to disaster a more critical priority in current planning and investment efforts. We hope these discussions will lead to the development of actions that can be supported to promote communities’ disaster resilience.
Disasters are a fact of life. But we save lives, reduce vulnerabilities and risks, and mitigate the damage they cause by acting together, now.
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.