Remarks at International Day for Disaster Reduction

Oct 13, 2010

Speaker: Ms. Setsuko Yamazaki , UNDP Country Director in Viet Nam
Date     : Tuesday, 13 October 2010
Event    : International Day for Disaster Reduction

Your Excellency, Mr. Dao Xuan Hoc, Deputy Minister of MARD,
Your Excellency, Chairperson of Ha Noi People’s Committee,
Ms. Berenice Muraille, Head of Cooperation, EU Delegation,
Distinguished representatives from provinces and ministries,
Colleagues from the donor community,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last week’s devastating floods in the central region once again demonstrated the very real risk that weather-related disasters pose and the havoc they wreak on communities and livelihoods across Viet Nam. So far, more than 66 people have lost their lives and hundreds of houses, roads, schools and health clinics have been destroyed and need to be rebuilt.
Every year disasters result in the deaths of people and cause economic loss. These tragic episodes demonstrate the importance of today’s event – the International Day for Disaster Reduction.

The theme this year is: “Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready”. While storms, typhoons and floods are always hazardous they are even more deadly when they hit cities and urban areas. As we celebrate a 1,000 years of Thang Long – Ha Noi this theme is particularly relevant. Throughout its existence, Ha Noi has witnessed many severe storms and floods and has a 1,000 year long history of addressing and dealing with disasters. I am sure we can all recall the 2008 floods, and more recently the flooding in July of this year. Both events demonstrated how vulnerable we are to natural hazards and the impact that they can have, also although everyone is affected when a disaster hits, it is the poor who are particularly vulnerable. With climate change, we can expect even more severe and unpredictable typhoons, storms and floods – and an even greater threat to our cities.

If we want to protect and preserve the beautiful city of Ha Noi and its rich historical and cultural heritage, as well as social and economic success, we must do all we can to make this city – along with all cities in Viet Nam – safer from disasters.

So what actions can cities take?

On behalf of the United Nations I encourage all cities to sign up to the global UN campaign “Making Cities Resilient”. More than 100 cities worldwide are already part of the campaign and are undertaking ten essential steps which will help make communities and cities safer from disasters. The practical actions include investing more in disaster risk reduction, preparation and ensuring early warning systems are in place.

In addition, there are four areas which I urge all cities and urban communities to consider.

Firstly, it is important to recognize that urban poverty and vulnerability to disasters are closely linked. Vietnamese cities are growing by around one million people a year. While this is part of a normal development process, new forms of urban poverty are being created. Many urban poor live in areas with weak infrastructure and facilities and in areas that are disaster prone. By addressing urban poverty we can also help reduce the vulnerability of the urban poor to disasters.

Secondly, it is important that urban planning processes include disaster risk reduction measures and take climate change into account.  This means providing support for migrants living in disaster prone areas, investing in risk-reduction measures, and making sure that housing and other urban infrastructure is “climate proofed” that is resilient enough to withstand the impact of disasters.

Thirdly, I encourage all urban residents to engage with the national programme on community-based disaster risk reduction. This programme aims to improve the awareness of communities to natural hazards and use effective ways to manage disaster risks at all levels, especially among local administrations, in communes and villages. This will help to minimize human and property losses, limit the deterioration of natural resources and the environment caused by disasters and help the country to develop further.

Finally, it is important to promote strong ownership and leadership by national and local leaders and the people themselves. We can all have a contribution to reducing the impact of disasters on our lives. As the UN Secretary-General said: “Reducing disaster risk is everybody's business, and needs everyone's participation and investment”.

The UN in Viet Nam continues to support the Government and people – in both rural and urban areas – to respond effectively to the challenges posed by disasters and climate change. We are already working on disaster preparedness, disaster risk reduction and response, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The people of Ha Noi, and the twenty-five million Vietnamese living in other cities across the country, have suffered in recent years from floods, storms and drought - and with climate change they will be facing further challenges. But if we take practical action today, cities can build their resilience and get their city ready. By working together – the Government, UN agencies, international organizations and the local people – I am confident that we will overcome the challenges and that Viet Nam and its cities can enjoy a safe, fulfilling and prosperous future.

I would like to conclude by quoting a Vietnamese saying: “Một đồng  phòng hơn bảy đồng  chống”. [one dong investment in preparedness is better than seven dong in prevention”]
Thank you.