Excellency Dr. Han Seung-soo, HELP Chair and Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea,
Excellency Dr. Basuki Hadimuljono, Minister for Public Works and Housing of Indonesia,
Excellency Ms. Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to address the 17th meeting of the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP).
I would like to take this opportunity to express our commitment to support HELP to address water and disasters challenges against the backdrop of building back better post COVID-19 for a resilient Asia-Pacific region.
In this regard, I am pleased to share three key issues for your further deliberations and considerations.
First, let’s focus on creating a more resilient regional framework to pandemic and disaster shocks, one that is adaptive to global changes, notably climate change.
The COVID-19 pandemic has torn through the region’s social and economic fabric and shown us the fragility of our interconnected systems.
When the pandemic raged through a region already under strain from climate disasters -- floods, cyclones and droughts -- we witnessed how tightly interwoven are our social and economic ties. Tug at one thread and daily life starts to fall apart with rapid momentum.
The silver lining in a very dark cloud is a new perspective on how we can better anticipate the simultaneous effects of cascading risks, build more flexible and resilient social and economic systems, and build back better post-COVID-19.
Second, let’s focus on developing specific measures to make the post-pandemic world more resilient and adaptive to shocks.
In this context, let me share with you few pivotal measures.
- The intersection of the COVID-19 pandemic with climate extremes and other biological hazards means confronting deeper uncertainties than the past.
The responders on the ground are witnessing a new paradigm – managing risk to manage uncertainties.
So future disaster planning will need to engage with more complex and dynamic scenarios.
In this regard, ESCAP’s forthcoming Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2021 will present cascading risks and show how this has extended the disaster riskscape across the region.
- Emerging technologies hold huge promise, and we must use these innovations in the service of marginal and vulnerable populations.
Innovations in digital technologies, remote sensing, modelling and GIS-based applications have created new opportunities that, for example, expand financing options through new insurance instruments to support the most vulnerable.
The experience of managing climate and health disasters simultaneously over the past year has also re-established the importance of climate services that are on the cutting edge of technological research advance.
These now must be applied to integrated public health and disaster management to mitigate the rising disaster-health-climate risk nexus.
- There are areas where additional investments will yield large dividends, including integrated early warning systems for biological hazards and pandemics, open science policy forums to democratize technology knowledge, and regional social innovation ecosystem to scale up innovations.
These systems need to be designed more comprehensively to deal with multiple and compounded risks and the intersection of vulnerabilities and impacts.
- There is the need to double down on regional and subregional cooperation efforts because COVID-19 has truly shown that disasters know no boundaries.
Now is the time to operationalize through a regional strategy the disaster and health aspects of international agreements such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Bangkok Principles, in line with the request of member States at the recently-concluded 77th session of the Commission.
Importantly, ESCAP has also established the Asia-Pacific Disaster Resilience Network to support and mobilize cooperation efforts for integrated multi-hazard early warning systems, including those for biological hazards.
Third, ESCAP stands ready to work with HELP and other relevant partners in promoting these regional and subregional initiatives.
As a way forward, the seventh session of the Commission’s Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction, which meets from 25 to 27 August this year, is expected to make key decisions on scaling-up cooperation frameworks to manage cascading risks.
For example, ESCAP and HELP can collaborate in addressing this new risk landscape and scaled up collaboration.
I invite HELP to join the Asia Pacific Disaster Resilience Network partnership, and to participate in the Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction.
Together, we can help forge consensus and policy action on the issues in Asia and the Pacific.
I thank you.