17 May 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appealed to all nations to bolster efforts to curb disaster risk, stressing that decisive action taken now can be “one of the best investments countries can make.” Speaking at the launch ceremony in Bahrain of the first-ever “Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction,” Mr. Ban said stepped up spending in slashing risk is “critical to saving lives and livelihoods.” Further, it is essential in reaching the aims set forth in both the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, and the Hyogo Framework for Action, the 10-year programme adopted in 2005 which calls for investing heavily in disaster preparedness and strengthening the capacity of disaster-prone countries to address the risks. Increased investment by nations “is critical to saving lives and livelihoods,” he underscored. “We know the dividends,” the Secretary-General said. “Reducing disaster risk can help countries decrease poverty, safeguard development and adapt to climate change. This, in turn, can promote global security, stability and sustainability.” He noted that last year alone, 236,000 people were killed more than 300 disasters, while 200 million others were directly affected, with damages totaling over $180 billion. The new report by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) finds that global disaster risk is on the rise because of unsafe cities, environmental destruction and climate change, jeopardizing the lives of hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Low- and middle-income nations are becoming increasingly susceptible to disasters because of the lack of government attention, unplanned urbanization and deplorable economic conditions, it notes. The 200-page study is based on a massive database, with information culled from UN, governmental, scientific and academic sources over a 32-year period from 1975-2007. Disaster risk is highly concentrated in poorer nations with weaker governance, the report says, with just three countries – Bangladesh, China and India – accounting for 75 per cent of mortality risk from floods. Meanwhile, nations with small and vulnerable economies, such as many small island developing States, have the highest economic vulnerability and low resilience to natural hazards. Mr. Ban today said that “our capacity to cope with natural hazards is much greater than we realize,” pointing to the 20-point action plan proposed by the report to curb disaster risk and its call for a transformation in development thinking by putting emphasis on resilience and pre-emptive measures. Further, the study urges actions to limit the impact of disasters on populations by improving squatter settlements, providing land and infrastructure for the urban poor, strengthening rural livelihoods and protecting ecosystems, among other suggestions. “Such measures have great potential,” the Secretary-General stressed. Addressing reporters after the report’s launch, he said that “progress has been made in early warning and preparedness programmes worldwide but much more needs to be done.”While in Bahrain, he is scheduled to meet with Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, as well as other senior officials.
“It is the recognition that if we educated women and girls, then we will see changes not only in gender equality, in fighting corruption, government, peace and security but it’s actually the second highest need for climate change action,” Dr. Murabit added, stressing the economic importance of creating education and employment opportunities for women and girls around the world. The Global Festival of Ideas, the first in a series of annual forums, is hosted by the UN SDG Action Campaign in partnership with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) with the support of the German Government. VIDEO: The three day Global Festival of Ideas for Sustainable Development brings together hundreds of experts and grassroots organizations to exchange ideas on policies aimed at implementing and promoting the SDGs.In particular, she highlighted the importance of SDG5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. “I’m a medical doctor and I’m very passionate about health, but it’s gender equality that gets me out of bed every morning. It’s a desire and a drive to ensure that women and girls around the world have the same opportunity as their male counterparts,” she said in her keynote address. The three-day Global Festival of Ideas for Sustainable Development has brought together policy makers, civil society and the private sector to discuss and exchange ideas and policies and collaboratively work on simulations and models to overcome obstacles in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “To ensure that by 2030, the SDGs become a reality for everyone, everywhere, we must innovate in the way we think about communicating the goals, building partnerships, and push for more people-centred action at the local, regional and global levels,” underlined Sarah Poole, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Deputy Assistant Administrator. She added that the UN has a responsibility to help countries make the Global Goals a reality by putting societies on a sustainable development pathway, managing risks and enhancing resilience. Also today, the UN SDG Advocate, Alaa Murabit, highlighted the importance of partnership and cooperation between “unlikely allies” working together to implement the agenda for the benefit all humankind.