Speech at the Disaster risk management: International perspectives and challenges for Viet Nam – for National Assembly members

18 Jun 2012

Speaker: Ms. Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director      
Date:       Monday 18 June 2012
Event:      Disaster risk management: International perspectives and challenges for Viet Nam – for National Assembly members

Your Excellency, Phan Xuân Dũng, Chairman of the National Assembly Committee of Science, Technology and Environment;
Honorable National Assembly members;
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen;

This week more than 100 heads of state and tens of thousands of other participants will gather in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as ‘Rio+20’. This is a milestone event aimed at putting sustainable development firmly on the global agenda. The Rio conference focuses on two main themes: first of all, a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and secondly, the institutional framework needed for sustainable development. At Rio, delegates will define pathways to a safer, more equitable, greener and more prosperous world for all.

Reducing disaster risk and building resilience is one of the issues on the agenda demanding urgent attention. Disasters caused by earthquakes, floods, droughts and tsunamis can have devastating impacts on people, environments and economies. More than 226 million people, particularly women and children – and most of them living in low or lower-middle income countries – are affected by disasters annually.

Viet Nam is one of the countries in the Asia-Pacific region most prone to climate-induced disasters. More than seven out of ten Vietnamese are estimated to be exposed to the risks from natural hazards. Over the past two decades, an average of 441 people have died annually because of disasters. Although the number of deaths is decreasing, the economic losses are increasing. Disasters in Viet Nam have caused an average loss of USD 1.9 billion each year, or 1.3 percent of GDP.

The Government has long recognized the severity of the challenge, developing a number of important policies and programmes to respond to disasters. This includes the National Strategy for Natural Disaster Prevention, Response and Mitigation, which looks at investing in infrastructure, such as sea and river dykes, as well as upgrading forecasting and early warning systems. In addition, through this Strategy, a programme on community-based disaster risk management, targeting more than 6,000 high-risk communes, is being implemented.

Legislators and parliaments have a central role to play in tackling global environmental challenges, which include addressing disaster risk. Recognizing this, the first World Summit of Legislators was held in Rio de Janeiro last week. The summit focused on several major areas where legislators have an important role to play. I would like to highlight a few of these relevant to the context in Viet Nam.

The first relates to national legislation: One of the essential roles of legislators and parliamentarians is to develop and pass appropriate laws and programmes. In this respect, it is important for Viet Nam to have a comprehensive Law on Disaster Risk Management in place. The law should internalize obligations under international conventions to which Viet Nam is a signatory, for example the ASEAN Agreement for Disaster Management and Emergency Response and the Hyogo Framework for Action. The law should also cover all components of disaster risk management – from mitigation and preparedness, to long-term recovery.

The second role I want to highlight is that of oversight and scrutiny. Legislators and parliamentarians play an important role in holding governments accountable for the implementation of international commitments and national law. The Legislators’ Summit aimed to establish an international mechanism to monitor implementation of the commitments made by governments at Rio+20, in order to strengthen the capacity of legislators to hold governments to account. This principle is also important in the context of Viet Nam. Once legislation is passed, the role of parliamentarians is to continue to ensure that the law is efficiently and effectively enacted. Experience from my own country, Japan, also shows how important an oversight and regulatory function is. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, caused by the tsunami, both the oversight and regulation of the nuclear industry has been substantially strengthened.

The final role I want to highlight relates to natural capital. As we know, the GDP measurement of economic growth does not take into account the use of natural resources and other environmental costs. Yet loss of natural assets can have a big impact on disasters, such as the case of deforestation which can cause landslide disasters or mangroves that protect against flooding. Legislators and parliamentarians play a crucial role in approving budgets, and in this respect it is important to look at how the value of natural capital can be integrated within national economic frameworks. This would enable legislators to better monitor the use of natural capital.

In all these three areas – national legislation, scrutiny and monitoring of natural capital – I am sure that National Assembly members will play a strong and active role.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

Other countries in the region, including Indonesia and the Philippines, have already set high standards in developing and approving comprehensive and innovative disaster risk management legislation. With strong political leadership, Viet Nam can and should follow in their footsteps and create legislation that is ‘cutting edge’.

At the same time, we should recognize that disaster risks and climate change cannot be effectively dealt with by the government or parliament alone. It is critical to promote the active involvement of local people during the whole process of legislative formulation, implementation and monitoring. Local communities, especially the poor and vulnerable women and children, who are most affected by disasters, should be able to participate in the planning and making of decisions that affect their lives.

In conclusion, let me stress that the UN and UNDP is committed to continue working with the Government, the National Assembly and other partners to address disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation – thereby ensuring a more sustainable and equitable future for all Vietnamese people.

I wish you all a productive and successful session. Thank you.