Speech at policy dialogue and sharing of international experience on disaster risk management

17 Nov 2012

Speaker:  Ms. Louise Chamberlain, UNDP Resident Representative
Date:        Saturday 17th November 2012
Event:       Policy dialogue and sharing of international experience on disaster risk management
Venue:      Melia Hotel, 44B Ly Thuong Kiet, Ha Noi

Your Excellency, Mr. Phan Xuân Dũng, Chairman of the National Assembly Committee of Science, Technology and Environment

Your Excellency, Dr. Cao Đức Phát, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

Honorable Deputies of the National Assembly,

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Committee of Science, Technology and Environment of the National Assembly and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for organizing today’s Policy Dialogue to share international experiences on disaster risk management and for this opportunity to address you on this occasion.

In the context of the finalization of the draft “Law on Natural Disaster Management on Natural Disaster and Prevention” in Viet Nam, this dialogue is both timely and of great importance, especially as new emerging risks and recent unpredictable patterns of natural hazards have become apparent in Viet Nam and are threatening the country’s years of hard-won development gains.

I am pleased to welcome his Excellency Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury, former Political Secretary to the Prime Minister and current member of the Parliament of Bangladesh, and Mr. Puji Pujiuno, former UNDP Policy and Legislative Advisor to the Indonesian House of Representative's Committee on Disaster Management Law. Both Mr. Chowdhury and Mr. Pujiuno have strong experience in developing regional and national DRM framework and legislation.

Three weeks ago, the super storm Hurricane Sandy seriously affected the United States, while Typhoon Son Tinh hit Viet Nam. These events remind us that no country can avoid exposure to climatic hazards and the losses they cause. The world experienced the costliest year on record in 2011, with estimated disaster losses of $380 billion US dollars. The global total losses resulting from disasters between 1980 and 2011 are estimated at $3.5 trillion. Disaster losses since 1980 have increased by 16 times in Asia while the GDP per capita has grown only by 13 times.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan last year showed that humankind is experiencing not only unprecedented risks coming from nature, but also emerging risks coming from human activities and economic development.

Over the last two decades, 1990-2011, every year on average 440 people in Viet Nam have died as a result of disasters. Although the number of deaths is decreasing, the economic losses are increasing. The country has seen estimated average annual GDP losses of USD1.8 billion at purchasing power parity, or 1.2 percent of GDP.

Importantly, vulnerable communities and groups – mainly ethnic minorities, poor women and children, especially in more remote areas, are most affected. Those vulnerable live in the hazard-prone areas and therefore often suffer from repeated and sometimes simultaneous shocks to their families, their settlements and their livelihoods. They have limited capacity and resources to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impacts of natural hazards.

Recognizing such climate-related risks, the Government of Viet Nam has taken significant measures to address these. A series of policies and programmes to respond to hazards have been developed, for example, the adoption of the programme on community-based disaster risk management that aims to target more than 6,000 communes across the country. UNDP is already playing a role in supporting the roll-out and the implementation of this important programme. And most importantly, the country is at the final stage of the formulation and verification of the first-ever law on disaster risk management.

Viet Nam continues to play an increasingly active role in the ASEAN and Asia Pacific forums on disaster risk management. I would like to congratulate Viet Nam on the co-chairmanship of the Emergency Preparedness Working Group of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum -APEC.

Distinguished Deputies and Members of this Forum,

On behalf of the United Nations organizations supporting disaster risk mitigation in Viet Nam, I would like to make six suggestions for your consideration in the context of finalization of the Disaster Risk Management Law:

First, the Law on disaster risk management should encompass the recent trends of disaster risk management and up-coming development agenda. Notably, the UN Millennium Declaration and the Hyogo Framework for Action will expire in 2015. Viet Nam should support the recent “Yogyakarta declaration on disaster risk reduction in Asia and the Pacific 2012”, which calls on stakeholders to participate in the consultations leading to the post-2015 development agenda and the post-2015 disaster risk reduction framework. As co-chairman of the APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group, Viet Nam can showcase this by developing advanced legislation. Today, you will hear about these trends and experiences from elsewhere in the region.

Second, recognizing the focus of the draft Law on natural hazards, lawmakers should consider putting in place institutional mechanisms that are fit to deal with other kinds of risks. Specifically, human-induced and hybrid risks may not be as prevalent as storms or floods that inundate Viet Nam each year. As seen in Fukushima however, their consequences could be far more devastating and require a truly whole-of-the-government response. The institutions embedded in the draft law in Viet Nam must, over time, be able to effectively provide such a response. There is scope to consider experiences from other countries that have taken a comprehensive approach to managing disaster risks.

Third, the Law should encompass all phases and components of  disaster risk management – from mitigation and preparedness, to response, recovery and development. Addressing also the preparedness stage will enable the country to undertake long- and medium term planning and investments to reduce vulnerability and disaster impacts and to sustain post-disaster development. Systematic investment in preparedness and resilience can greatly reduce the loss of lives and other costs of disaster to society.

Fourth, to ensure the effective implementation of a comprehensive Law that encompasses a broader range of hazards and all stages of the risk management process, there should be an expansion of mandates, further empowerment and enhancement of human resources of government bodies in charge of disaster risk management. The designated national coordination body should have a broader mandate that transcends institutional boundaries and complements the existing mandates of the CCFSC and of the Search and Rescue Committee. Such a coordination body would ensure cross-sectoral action to address all kinds of hazards. It is also important to have a permanent secretariat with qualified staff working on a full-time basis to serve the broader mandate of the coordination body.

Fifth, the Law should include clearly-defined triggers and responsibilities for the declaration of a state of emergency and a call for external support to an affected area. Recognizing the impressive strength of Viet Nam’s disaster response capacities, the Law should build on the existing institutional mechanisms to swiftly call upon international assistance – in the event of a disaster of unprecedented scale – without legal or administrative impediment.

Sixth, while acknowledging that the draft Law includes gender equality as an underlying principle, the Law should go further to institutionalize the formal roles of women, girls and women’s organizations in disaster risk management in Viet Nam. Women are already essential for the mobilization and coordination of support to humanitarian work and should be enabled to effectively participate in the decision-making process at all levels.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are pleased to see that many of these issues have been highlighted in the excellent appraisal document of the current draft law prepared by the Committee of Science, Technology and Environment.

Through the implementation of the United Nations One Plan for 2012-2016, I would like to reaffirm that UNDP and other UN organizations, including FAO, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO and UNWOMEN, will continue our commitments to support the finalization and approval of the Law and its implementation in the future.

I hope that the information and discussions today will contribute to the knowledge and experience of the National Assembly members in their deliberations on this important Law for the country.

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