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Remarks by Barnaby Jones, UNDP Deputy Country Director, at the launch of the 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction

Date: Tuesday, 19 May 2011
Event: Launch of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020
Speaker: Barnaby Jones, UNDP Deputy Country Director (Operations)

Your Excellency, Vice Minister Dao Xuan Hoc; Mr. Andrew Maskrey, Coordinator and lead author of the 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction; Colleagues from the donor and international community; Ladies and gentlemen;

Let me start by thanking the government, especially the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, for the opportunity to address this important event. I would also like to congratulate the UNSDR Secretariat for the publication of this very timely report on disaster risk reduction, the second of its kind.

The report reminds us that no one, neither in developed nor developing countries, can avoid exposure to disasters and the terrible losses they cause. Disasters continue to wipe out the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world. Just recently, we have witnessed the catastrophic earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, and floods in Pakistan. Each year, there are also hundreds of smaller disasters around the world. Many of these are associated with climate change and cause enormous damages to developing countries and losses to vulnerable communities, especially women and children.

However, there is good news. This year's report highlights that there is now a common understanding within the international community on how investments in early warning and preparedness are making a difference and saving lives. Many countries have made good progress in this area. The report also highlights global mortality risk associated with major weather-related hazards has declined and the risk of being killed by a tropical cyclone or a flood is lower today than it was 20 years ago.

Despite this progress made, the report also points out a number of challenges which will need to be addressed. I would like to highlight some of the findings which are particularly for Viet Nam.

First of all, the report points out that economic losses and damage to homes, schools, health facilities and livelihoods are on the rise. The estimated economic loss risk associated with floods and tropical cyclones is increasing in all regions of the world. The proportion of the world's GDP o tropical cyclones tripled in absolute terms, over the period 1970 - 2010 to more than US$1.9 trillion. Disasters which occur more frequently do not cause significant fatalities, however they cause a large proportion of damage to local infrastructure and livelihoods of low-income households.

Secondly, disasters impact significantly and negatively on child welfare and cause internal displacement. Children are particularly vulnerable, and girls seem to suffer most. The data shows that the gender gap in achieving primary education widens significantly after extensive disaster events, pointing to the need for greater consideration of children's vulnerability and needs.

Finally, there is insufficient understanding and recognition of the potential losses caused by drought. Drought has a significant impact on agricultural production, rural livelihoods, and economic sectors. The data shows that the social and economic impacts of drought are disproportionately felt by poor rural households which depend on rain-fed subsistence agriculture. Particular pertinent in Viet Nam, where recent droughts caused significant damages, for example in 2005 it caused an estimate damage of $110 million.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the period 1990 to 2009, an average of 457 people died each year in Viet Nam because of disasters. And the estimated annual economic loss is equivalent to 1.3 percent of GDP (PPP), equivalent to US$3.6 billion of 2010 GDP. Climate change and the degradation of the ecosystem have increased the exposure and vulnerability of people and societies to multiple hazards and consequent disaster risks.

The Government of Viet Nam has recognized the disaster risks that the country is facing and has taken a number of important actions to address them. The Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control was established in 1946 and a number of important policies and programmes to respond to disasters have been developed. Importantly, the Government has also focused on community-based disaster risk management. Yet, as Viet Nam continues to grow it faces a number of challenges that need to be tackled. Let me briefly highlight three of these.

First of all, Viet Nam should introduce a more comprehensive legal framework and enhance the institutional capacity for disaster risk management in order to deal with not only natural hazards but also emerging risks. The new law on disaster risk management should clearly define roles and responsibilities of the government and to ensure that citizens have access to information on disaster risks.

Secondly, we need to recognize that Viet Nam's economic growth and social development gains are being threatened by climate change and natural disasters. The magnitude of the threat is very significant and needs to be fully taken into account in the implementation of the next five-year national Socio-Economic Development Plan, as well as sectoral and provincial plans.

Thirdly, it is important to increase government funding and introduce innovative risk-financing mechanisms. The government should ensure an adequate contingent finance and insurance scheme to compensate for public assets and support the recovery of low-income households and communities after disasters. Stronger partnerships with civil society and local governments are essential if public investment is to be effective, sustainable and relevant to local needs. Accelerating the implementation of the Community-Based Disaster Risk Management Programme is important in that respect.

In conclusion, let me stress that the UN in Viet Nam and UNDP is committed to continue working with the government, donor community, NGOs and other stakeholders to address disaster risk reduction – thereby ensuring a more secure, stable, sustainable and equitable future for all Vietnamese people.

I encourage all of you here today to critically reflect on the findings of the Global Assessment Report for Disaster Risk Reduction 2011 and its relevance for the people of Viet Nam.

Thank you for your kind attention!