Speech by Ms. Beate Trankmann, Resident Coordinator, United Nations, Mongolia
Excellency Mr. Khurelsukh, Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia,
Excellency Ms. Oyunkhorol, Minister for Environment and Tourism
Distinguished Ms Mungunchimeg, Vice Minister Labor & Social Protection
Distinguished Brigadier-General Badral, Chief of NEMA
Ms. Bolormaa, Secretary General of Red Cross Mongolia, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
Risk is inevitable. In the age of climate change, we have entered into unchartered territory. Floods and droughts, fires and dzuds – hazards that shift from far-flung corners to our own neighbourhoods. Risks cannot be avoided – but they can be managed. In light of this, Disaster Risk Reduction has shifted from prevention, to building resilience.
The idea of ‘resilience’ is to prepare every community to better fight and recover from disasters, including by preserving and restoring basic infrastructure and services.
The Sustainable Development Goals call for an end to poverty, a reduction in inequality and a planet that can support future generations. Resilience is fundamental to realizing that agenda. Without it, achievements in human development – such as lifting people out of poverty and providing access to quality health and education to everyone – may suddenly be wiped out.
Too often when disaster strikes, those with the least end up losing the most. Poverty raises a community’s exposure to hazards, while reducing their ability to recover from them. According to the Overseas Development Institute, by 2030, 325 million people will be living in countries highly exposed to natural disasters caused by extreme weather. Unless steps are taken now, many of them could be dragged into poverty.
We have seen the interplay between climate change, disaster risk and poverty in Mongolia. Temperatures here are rising three times faster than the global average. Land degradation – driven by growing livestock numbers – is further exacerbated by the effects of climate change such as frequent droughts, advancing desertification and regularly occurring dzuds. As a result, ecosystems and the land are unable to sustain the herds on which herding families depend for income and food. This puts more herders at risk of losing their livelihoods and falling into poverty.
To achieve the SDG vision of a world free of poverty by 2030, it is important to strengthen the resilience of communities to protect themselves and recover from disaster. Climate change and disaster risks must be addressed as one, as development can only be sustainable when it is risk-informed. The many causes of Mongolias’s dzuds, for example, must be mitigated with long-term development tools, rather than responding with short-term emergency measures.
Three global frameworks approved in 2015 - the Sendai Framework, the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement – recognise that these issues overlap. These frameworks are mutually dependent, with common targets and indicators between them.
To achieve these global agendas, every country is developing its own strategic plans to meet both DRR and SDG targets. Coherence between them is essential. They must be tackled at country-level, as part of one, comprehensive development plan. Strategic action plans on DRM must feed into the broader development agenda.
Alignment between DRR and the SDGs rightly continues to be a strong theme in Mongolia. Policy-makers can take pride in approving a new Disaster Risk Management law that reflects the Sendai Framework and makes clear that DRR is critical to development.
In addition to policy coherence, finance is also critical. Without big investments across sectors and levels, it will be hard to achieve development that is disaster-resilient, sustainable and inclusive.
The economics of resilience cannot be understated. We know that USD 1 invested in preparedness saves USD 7 in response. Earthquake-resistant buildings for example only cost 2.5% more for structural elements, and outstrip by far the costs of repairing or rebuilding them. In the recent 7.8 magnitude Nepal earthquake, while many houses and infrastructure were destroyed, 160 school buildings retrofitted with quake-resistant technology in Kathmandu withstood the shock.
Investing for resilience is vital. Key areas include health; education; social protection; agriculture; urban resilience; emergency response and recovery. The Grand Bargain endorsed at the World Humanitarian Summit last year foresees funds for these investments to come from public finance; but also corporate finance; community contributions; & multi-lateral financial mechanisms; and international development aid.
DRR for sustainable development requires strong political direction and vision, to drive the legal and institutional set-ups needed, and bring all actors together, including the private sector and communities. The Government of Mongolia under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Khurelsukh, is stepping up to this challenge through the new DRM law.
The Government of Mongolia is also taking a leading role regionally on DRR, by hosting the upcoming Asian Ministerial Conference on DRR in Ulaanbaatar next summer. This gives Mongolia an opportunity to strengthen the momentum of its DRM reform, from the national level, down to local districts, which India achieved with great success at the last conference in New Delhi.
The first deadline of the Sendai Framework – to substantially raise the number of countries with national and local DRR strategies – is 2020. This is a central part of Mongolia’s DRM reform and the country is well-placed in this regard.
A crucial next step to a safer future is to start applying the Sendai indicators. This means completing readiness reviews, setting up baselines and national disaster loss databases. Significant progress on these has been made here, and must be continued, to further support Mongolia’s DRM reform process.
National readiness reviews will be a key part of this month’s Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction in Cancun, Mexico. Mongolia’s agenda will, I am sure, attract wide interest there.
In closing, allow me to congratulate DPM Khurelsukh and the Government on your consistent leadership to strengthen resilience in Mongolia. I am confident these reforms will be a success and will contribute to a sustainable and inclusive future for Mongolia. The UN stands ready to support you in this.