'Result matters, isn’t it!'- World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015

Updates from World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR)

Highlights of day 1

a.       Third UN WCDRR 2015 has been officially opened today by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon in Sendai, Japan. The Secretary-General told the 4,000 participants – including representatives of 186 governments - attending the opening day of the five day event: “You have made this the highest-level meeting on DRR in history. This is the first stop on our journey to a new future. DRR advances progress on sustainable development and climate change.” He added, we can watch that number grow as more people suffer. Or we can dramatically lower that figure and invest the savings in development. Six billion dollars allocated each year can result in savings of up to US$360 billion by 2030. Among other dignitaries, His Majesty the emperor and Her Majesty the empress of Japan attended to grace the opening ceremony. The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Shinzo Abe, also spoke in the opening session.

b.      His Excellency Mr. Abe, today pledged $US 4 billion to support implementation of the “Sendai Cooperation Initiative for Disaster Risk Reduction” over the next four years. The package will focus on the development of disaster-proof infrastructure, the promotion of global and regional cooperation and the training of 40,000 government officials and local leaders to play a leading role in national efforts for disaster risk reduction. Japan will make its expertise and knowledge available.

c.       The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, made an appeal at the Conference opening for the creation of a worldwide early warning system for Climate Disasters - “Climate Disaster Warning” - as he stated that 70% of disasters are now linked to climate change, double the number of twenty years ago. He said that disaster risk reduction and the struggle against climate change are totally linked and “it is necessary to tackle these problems together and not separately.” Mr. Fabius is incoming President of 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) on Climate Change which will take place coming December in Paris.

d.      While work is continuing at the Conference to agree on a new DRR framework - the HFA 2, the pace of the negotiation has been slow. Member states are yet to reach to a common agreement in sealing the deal. It was expected that the HFA 2 would be settled in the final PrepCom meeting on March 13, 2015 but the negotiation is continuing. Nonetheless, it now becoming clearer that the HFA 2 may not be a very different framework compared to HFA 1, adopted in Kobe, Japan in 2005 but would have required emphasis to minimize the gaps exists through this new global DRR framework. 

e.       At the opening ceremony, Ms. Regina Pritchett, representing nine Major Groups made very refreshing statement. Citing real life experience of disaster affected people, more specifically of women, she referred to the faith based concept of ‘inter-connection’. Ms. Pritchett related the concept with the ongoing HFA 2 negotiations involving a larger group of stakeholders working to make the world more resilient to disasters. She requests to facilitate discussion embracing the spirit of connections between people, generations, nations and culture for an inclusive framework. She makes an appeal to ‘act like an artist’. Instead being overwhelmed in getting our favored agendas in the HFA 2, she appeals to take all a step back and look into the ‘larger composition’. Understand what it means to member states and to communities they serve and govern to innovate new ways of doing things. Ms. Pritchett reminds to evade the illusion of separation to break silos. She calls for an inclusive global DRR framework, the HFA 2.        

f.        The UNDP Bangladesh team met the UNDP Official Delegation to WCDRR 2015 comprising the HQ, Geneva and RBAP representatives. The BD team will support the official delegation to make UNDPs presence felt in the 3rd WCDRR. It was emphasized that CO results and discussions with the potential partners/donors should be done adopting a corporate approach. Heling the whole of UNDP to build profile, communicating results and needs in relation to the larger UNDP context instead from a linear country perspective. UNDP perspectives and commitments to HFA 2 was also reflected for common understanding. The need for maximizing the use social media was reemphasized.

g.       BD Official delegation progressed as planned. The Honorable Minister of DM participated in the high-level partnership dialogue on ‘Mobilizing Women’s Leadership in Disaster Risk Reduction’. An Ignite Stage presentation on ‘Interactive Voice Response: Early Warning in Bangladesh was made by the National Project Director of CDMP II. The exhibition booth of Bangladesh has been set up and attracted many participant as expected.         

Highlights of day 2

a.      The BGD side event titled ‘Resilient Future: Ways to Reduce Disaster and Climate Change Impact’ has taken place today at the Kawauchi-Kita Campus of Tohoku University from 13:00-16:00 hours. In the event, Bangladesh’s disaster and climate induced challenges and achievements of the past 10 years were presented. Gender, public investment  in DRR, community resilience  and future risk were also elaborated by number of presenters from the Bangladesh government, academicians and civil society representatives. UNDP Bangladesh played the role of moderation in this event. The Minister of DMR said a few inspiring words. Three member of parliaments including chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee  participated in the event. Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP shared his reflection of the WCDR 2015 and also emphasized the need to approach resilience in the context of recovery. He also informed about his meeting with the Japanese PM in which he highlighted the need for Japanese partnership to further advance DRR in Bangladesh. The presentations has been followed by a dynamic Q & A session with active participation of the audience ranging from community member from a coastal village of Patuakhali, I/NGO officials from Bangladesh, experts from Canada, Africa, Australia and the USA. Mr. Puji Pujiono from UN ESCAP and Mr. Naoki Matsumura, Advisor – Disaster, Management and Climate Change, JICA, Bangladesh Office, shared their reflections as panelist.    

b.      UNISDR Side Event on risk informed public investment. UNISDR partners from the Latin America and Indian Ocean regions presented the results of their EC financed partnership to develop systems and approaches for risk sensitive public investment. While the available additional financing for disaster prevention and risk reduction is limited, globally, making existing public investment risk sensitive is a good way to achieve significant public benefits at minimal additional cost. This approach has merit for Bangladesh.

c.       ODI organized an exciting side event on ‘measuring resilience’. An upcoming study, to be published in a month, has analyzed 50 existing resilience frameworks and identified lessons and considerations for achieving this. ODI commented on the current deadlock in HFA2 negotiations regarding the inclusion of specific targets for HFA2 and the related measurement issues. UNDP Bangladesh team discussed potential knowledge partnership with ODI on the formulation of a new resilience program and the final evaluation of CDMP II. 

Highlights of day 3

a.      HFA 2 Negotiation:

The negotiation to lock the HFA 2 is still on to bridge the gap between member states. Member states negotiated till mid-night yesterday (March 15, 2015) and today probably would continue even longer. The most debated issue in last two days has centered on the ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR)’. However, some negotiators do see some light at the other end of the tunnel. Some informal discussions between opposing countries/constituencies (mainly G77 vs. the developed) have taken place and offering some hope for a mutually agreed HFA 2. Fingers crossed!

b.     Resilience Dialogue by World Bank/GFDRR:

The World Bank/GFDRR, the Government of Japan, the European Commission and the USAID hosted a special round of the Resilience Dialogue series as a part of the WCDRR 2015. This high level dialogue shed light on ‘how to bring resilience to scale for Post 2015 Development Goals’.

Mr. Isshu Sugawar, the State Minister of Japan and Ms. Margareta Wahlstrom, UN Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for DRR were the two distinguished speakers.

Reflecting on the current HFA framework, Ms. Wahlstrom said that we all should be proud as HFA has made a mark in awareness building, institutional development and securing magnificent outreach of DRR across the globe. She pointed to the World Bank to unpack the economics of disaster with more robust data, information and analysis. Although many countries cope with immediate loss of disasters but the long term impacts remain unseen. It severely affects government’s ability to make effective use of finances for economic and social development, leading countries to prolong debt from multilateral financial institutions. At the end, referring to the ongoing negotiation, Ms. Wahlstrom appealed to member state that the HFA framework is essentially about people and we should strive to go beyond our subtle differences. Everyone has a stake, something to offer and contribute to HFA.   

The speeches were followed by brilliant discussion by a panel of eminent global leaders from development agencies and governments. The panel included Mr. Anote Tong- President of Kiribati (an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean), Mr. P.K. Mishra- Principle Secretary to the Prime Minister of India, Ms. Helen Clark- UNDP Administrator, Ms. Rachel Kyte- World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, Mr. Claus Sørensen-Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, ECHO and Mr. Thomas Staal- Assistant Administrator, USAID.

The World Bank Vice President said, the global economic losses in last 20-25 years is nearly U$200 billion. Yet global investment in prevention is only at about 10%. She added that climate change is definitely a behavioral as well a moral issue but there must be an economic rationale for investing more now to save more in future. That is where risk informed development can make a difference. She stresses upon the need in ‘doing development differently’.

The DG ECHO, mentioned that his organization spends U$1.3 billion annually on humanitarian response. He must be the most idiot person in the hall in making such investment that is at risk of changing climate, he added. He calls for a risk informed development.

‘DRR is development’, UNDP Administrator started her remarks by simply discarding the classic divide between the two. DRR is not a separate discipline and every development work needs to go through the test of resilience, she added. The outcome from Sendai needs to be crossed referenced across the board, therefore. On HFA in particular, the UNDP Administrator appealed to break silos and have a big vision for future generation. Finally, she commented that any investment in risk reduction is going to pay off many many times. Let us put the U$1.3 billion spent by ECHO to risk informed development and then many risks would have been avoided or would have not been produced at all.

USAID Assistant Administrator said that resilience is about building capacities of people, institutions and systems. This should not be seen as a project. It needs a comprehensive approach. 

The President of Kiribati, commented that climate change is the biggest disaster of all. If countries in need are supported by the international community for economic development than they may have capabilities to build resilience by their own.

The Principle Secretary to the Prime Minister of India pointed towards addressing underlying risk factors to make DRR effective and useful.

c.      High-level multi-stakeholder partnership dialogue II: Risk-sensitive investment: Public-private partnerships

In this dialogue, prominent speakers shared views and recognized the need for shared vision & values in building resilience. A speaker representing the private sector highlighted the risks that concerns most- the global climate change, the development of society/urbanization and development of new risk due to globalization (cyber risks, diseases, etc.). However, ‘voluntary and responsible investment’ by the private sector has been significant and amounting to U$45 trillion, as mentioned by the speaker. Yet more can be and should be done in corresponding to the level of risks the humanity is exposed to. New types of partnership, trust to transform negotiation to collaboration, instruments for longer term engagement, interest in development (beyond resilience) was regarded as pre-requisite. Since, securing resilience can neither be achieved by government nor the private sector alone, risk sensitive investments and collaboration from both was recognized as the key for resilience building. After all, helping people, community, society, government and nation is beneficial for sustainable business.           

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