Speech at the third national forum on Disaster Risk Reduction & Climate Change Adaptation

11 Oct 2013

Speech:  Ms. Pratibha Mehta, United Nations Resident Coordinator
Date:       Thursday, 10 October 2013
Event:     Third National Forum on Disaster Risk Reduction & Climate Change Adaptation
Venue:     Melia hotel, Ha Noi

Excellency, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai;
Excellency, Minister Cao Duc Phat;
Excellency, Minister Nguyen Minh Quang;
Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank Country Director;
Development partner colleagues;
Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen:

As we are all aware, on September 29 and 30 Typhoon WUTIP hit central northern Viet Nam, triggering intense floods in 6 central provinces that left 13 people dead, 4 others missing and 208 injured. On behalf of the United Nations Country Team in Viet Nam, let me offer our sympathies and sincere condolences to all those who have lost loved ones and are rebuilding their lives after this tragic event. Calamities such as these remind us of how pervasive the risks are and how much is at stake as we deliberate disaster risk management actions. I would like to acknowledge the timely response of the Government to mitigate this disaster, with efforts now underway to help communities recover.

I would also like to extend my congratulations to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for co-organizing this Forum on Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation. The presence of the Deputy Prime Minister Hai, Minister Nguyen Minh Quang and Minister Cao Duc Phat, along with donor representatives, NGOs and other partners, shows serious commitment of the government for the issues and to collaborate with all stakeholders in addressing the two inter-connected issues.

The UN is proud of its partnership with Viet Nam including technical assistance for the organization of this important forum,  implementation of the current UN Hyogo Framework of Action 2005, and formulation of the post-2015 disaster risk reduction framework.

Today’s event is taking place just days before the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, which falls on 13 October. This year it focuses on the theme of “Living with Disability and Disasters”. More than one billion people in the world live with a disability, including a large number in Vietnam, Yet early warning systems, public awareness campaigns and other responses often fail to consider the needs of persons with disabilities, putting them at an unnecessarily elevated risk. Globally, they suffer disproportionately high levels of disaster-related mortality and injuries. They are largely an untapped resource for disaster planners.

The simple message of this year’s International Day is that inclusive planning and response saves lives and empowers persons with disabilities to help themselves and their communities. This equally concerns other vulnerable groups such as poor, women and children.

The UN has been calling for women and girls to participate more formally in disaster risk decision-making processes. It is encouraging to see recent recognition by the Government of the role of women in disaster management, and we commend the appointment of Madame Hoang Thi Ai Nhien, Vice Chairperson of the Viet Nam Women’s Union, as an official member of the Committee for Flood and Storm Control just two days back.

Furthermore, the Government has taken a number of measures to address climate-related disaster risks. A number of crucial policies and programmes to respond to disasters have been developed. For example, Viet Nam adopted the Law on Disasters Response and Control, and is rolling out a programme on community-based disaster risk management targeting more than 6,000 communes across the country.

However, more needs to be done through concerted action by all stakeholders to cope with ever-growing challenges of disasters and climate change. I would therefore like to make some suggestions for your consideration.

Firstly, innovations and new financial mechanisms are needed to increase funding for disaster risk reduction. While there is finance for response and recovery, there are very limited resources available for preparedness despite the evidence that one dollar invested in disaster prevention and preparedness saves seven dollars in response efforts. It is encouraging that the Law on Disasters Response and Control promulgates the establishment of a disaster trust fund and we hope that the national budget will ensure funding for prevention and preparedness. Climate finance presents an opportunity to increase investment in disaster management by bringing disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) closer together.

The forum today is a unique cooperation between MARD and MONRE gathering stakeholders to share their insights and encourage discussions on policy options for both DRR and CCA. To ensure the continuation and sustainability of the forum, we propose linking these two issues together in the deliberations of the National Committee on Climate Change.

Secondly, it is critical to accelerate the implementation of the community-based disaster risk management programme that incorporates climate change adaptation aspects, especially when it comes to the allocation of finance. This programme will equip local communities with essential capacity and skills to prepare for and cope with disasters. As was very evident from the recent floods, fundamental skills such as swimming and provision of basic equipment such as floating buoys are essential for people’s survival.

Thirdly, it is essential to enhance resilience of cities and industries. Disasters in urban settings are on the rise globally, and it is increasingly important to prevent and reduce damage to properties and businesses, and losses of productive assets. The UN’s 2013 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction shows that the infrastructure expansion in marginal lands, flood-prone and coastal areas, as well as unplanned  urban development, have contributed to increasing vulnerability of urban population to natural disasters, especially floods. Private sector can be a powerful ally to strengthen cities’ resilience and improve contingency planning and business continuity. It also plays a significant role in providing jobs and livelihoods and helping communities recover in urban and rural areas alike.

Ladies and gentlemen:
Let me conclude by stressing UN’s utmost priority for continued support for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. We are committed to continue working with the Government, donor community, NGOs and other stakeholders to address these two inter-connected challenges and ensuring safer, more secure and sustainable future for all Vietnamese people.

Thank you for your attention and I wish you all a very productive forum.