Speech at the stakeholder consultation on the draft law on natural disaster prevention

Aug 7, 2012

Speaker: Ms. Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director
Date:       Tuesday August 7, 2012
Event:      Stakeholder consultation on the draft law on natural disaster prevention August 7-8, 2012

Your Excellency, Mr. Phan Xuan Dzung, Chairman of the Committee for Science, Technology and Environment of the National Assembly
Mr. Nguyen Vinh Ha, Deputy Chair

Your Excellency, Mr. Hoang Van Thang, Vice Minister and Director of the Water Resources Directorate

Deputies of  the National Assembly and representatives from provinces

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to start by thanking the Committee for Science, Technology and Environment of the National Assembly for organizing today’s consultation workshop with relevant stakeholders to review of the Draft Law on Natural Disaster Risk Management and for this opportunity to address such an important event.

As a country that is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change, this first ever law on disaster risk management is critical legislation to act as a backbone for Viet Nam to stand up and cope with future natural disasters.

Other countries in the region, such as Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines, have already set a high standard and approved comprehensive and innovative disaster risk management legislation. The laws have helped these nations shift progressively towards more professional and specialized risk management to prepare, respond, recover and mitigate the impacts of natural disasters. With significant experience and strong political leadership, Viet Nam can certainly follow in these nations’ footsteps and raise the bar further by creating ‘cutting edge’ legislation.

In this respect, I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Government for producing such a comprehensive draft law for official submission to the National Assembly. The law covers a wide range of key issues and we are especially encouraged by a proposal to establish a natural disaster trust fund.

Following on from this encouraging work, I would like to take the opportunity today to make some suggestions for your consideration:

The first point is the law should encompass all components of disaster risk management – from mitigation and preparedness, to long-term recovery and development. The law should also aim to deal not only water-related and natural hazards, but also emerging risks. Experience from my own country, Japan, shows how important a comprehensive legal framework is. After the Fukushima nuclear powerplant disaster last year, caused by a devastating tsunami, nuclear energy industry oversight and regulations have been substantially strengthened.

Secondly, the law should fully internalize obligations under international conventions to which Viet Nam is a signatory, such as the ASEAN Agreement for Disaster Management and Emergency Response and the Hyogo Framework for Action. By doing so, Vietnamese law will be more in step with the legal frameworks of other ASEAN countries facing similar disaster risk challenges, thus promote stronger cooperation with these countries.

The third issue I would like to highlight is the critical importance of sufficient capital for disaster proof investments and preparedness. Experience shows us that every dollar spent in preparedness will save seven dollars in response efforts. In Southeast Asia, about 3-5% of state budgets is earmarked for disaster risk reduction, mainly for preparedness. Vietnamese law should set a state expenditure target for disaster risk management and investment.

Fourthly, the law should provide clearer roles and responsibilities for Government institutions, stronger partnerships with civil society and promote the rights of citizens and communities, for example timely access to quality information on disaster risks. This is also a key determinant for the successful implementation of the Government’s current strategic efforts to promote community-based disaster risk management and climate proof development practices.

The final point I would like to make is Viet Nam should aim to adopt a “resilient” approach to deal with cities’ multi-sectoral development requirements. Many of us still remember the impacts of the wide-spread flooding in Bangkok, Thailand at the end of 2011 and in Beijing, China last month. Climate change is a reality we need to learn to live with. We are witnessing a more extreme climate situation and many low-land cities in Viet Nam are particularly vulnerable to similar extreme events and disasters.

In response to these challenges, I am happy to inform you that UNDP and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will launch the Special Report on “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on August 17 in Ha Noi. The IPCC Chairman Dr. Pachauri will come to Ha Noi to attend this launch and address a number of other related events.
In summary, today is a great opportunity to give your comments and suggestions to allow the National Assembly to take them into account during its review of the draft law.

It has been our pleasure to work with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development throughout the building of this law and now with the Committee for Science, Technology and Environment at this final stage. We have experience from working with other ASEAN countries facing similar challenges and are ready to help Viet Nam learn from these experiences and lessons.

I hope you have fruitful discussions and a productive workshop.

Thank you.