Statement at the policy briefing on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation

Nov 14, 2011

Speaker: Bakhodir Burkhanov, UNDP Deputy Country Director
Date:      14 November 2011
Event:     Policy Briefing on Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation

Mr. Nguyen Xuan Dieu, Deputy DG, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development,
Mr. Nguyen Vu Viet, Deputy Director of the Viet Nam Academy of Water Resources,
Colleagues from ministries, international organization and donor community,
Ladies and gentlemen:

Let me start by thanking the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, for the opportunity to address this important event. It is a real pleasure to be with all of you today.

In two weeks, thousands of delegates from around the world will gather in Durban, South Africa, for the 17th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC to discuss global action to combat climate change. So today is a very good opportunity for us to discuss how Viet Nam will further adapt and respond to this new reality of increased temperatures, erratic rainfall and drought, sea level rise and more intense and unpredictable storms and floods.

No one can avoid exposure to disasters and the terrible losses they cause. Weather-related disasters continue to cost lives and affect the livelihoods of millions of people in developed and developing countries alike. Just this year there have been unusual storms and heat waves in the United States, severe droughts in East Africa, and extensive flooding in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and here in Viet Nam.

Already over 280 people have lost their lives in Viet Nam so far in 2011 because of climate-related disasters. Sadly, in the current Mekong flooding, more than 85% of the deaths are children. As was mentioned by Mr. Dieu before, the economic loss for this year is estimated at about US$300 million – and this damage continues to increase.

Climate change is bringing more of these extreme events and is amplifying their intensity. It affects vulnerable communities and is felt more strongly by women and children. Climate change is a fact that we need to address as a matter of urgency. As we can see, people are already affected by it in their daily lives. Aside from climatic changes, degradation of ecosystems and urbanization has also increased the exposure and vulnerability of people to disaster risks.

The Government has already recognized climate-related risks and has taken a number of measures to address them. A series of crucial policies and programmes to respond to disasters have been developed. Importantly, the Government has started formulating a disaster management law and implementing a programme on community-based disaster risk management targeting more than 6,000 communes across the country.

However, great challenges are ahead of us. I would like to briefly highlight some of the main challenges that Viet Nam continues to face and that need to be tackled.

First of all, Viet Nam’s economic growth and social development gains are being threatened by climate change and disasters. A single disaster event can wipe out years of hard-won development. The magnitude of the threat needs to be fully taken into account in the implementation of national, provincial, as well as sectoral plans.

Secondly, more efforts are needed to enhance the capacity and skills of local communities to prepare for and cope with disasters. As we can clearly see from the current flooding in the Mekong, fundamental skills like swimming and basic equipment such as floating buoys are essential for people’s survival. Accelerating the implementation of the community-based disaster risk management programme, and incorporating climate change adaptation, is important in that respect.

Thirdly, it is essential to ensure that citizens are timely informed of disasters and the risks they pose. This has to happen through improved access to information and increased awareness of disaster and climate vulnerabilities. Improving information systems and weather forecasts and installing early warning systems are essential because timely and effective waning directly translates into lives saved.

Finally, it is important to increase Government funding for disaster risk management and introduce innovative risk-financing mechanisms. Adequate contingency finance and insurance schemes are critical to compensate for damage to assets and to support the recovery of low-income households and communities after disasters. Stronger partnerships with local governments, mass organizations, as well as international non-governmental organizations are essential if public investment is to be effective, sustainable and relevant to local needs.

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

I encourage all of you here today to openly discuss critical challenges and priorities and propose strategic policy options for early action by the Government and other partners to address disaster risks and climate change impacts.

I wish you fruitful discussions and a productive workshop.

Xin Cam On va Chuc Suc Khoe!

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