20 April 2009
Deputy Secretary-General

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

‘21st Century multi-stakeholder partnership’ best way to mitigate growing scourge

of disasters, build safer world, says Deputy Secretary-General in beijing remarks

Following are Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the International Conference on Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction, delivered by Margareta Walström, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Implementation of the Hyogo Framework of Action, in Beijing, 20 April:

It is a great pleasure to address this important international conference on gender and disaster risk reduction. I thank the All China Women’s Federation and the Government of China for their efforts to promote gender equality.  I would also like to pay tribute to all the organizations and participants whose collective commitment to the issue has made this event possible.

Each year, disasters cause heavy death tolls and huge socio-economic losses.

Each year, disasters push poor people even further into dire poverty.  The poor are highly vulnerable to natural hazards, and are less resilient to the impact of disasters and climate change.

Every year, women ‑‑ 70 per cent of the world’s poor ‑‑ bear a disproportionate share of such tragedies, yet they have less influence on the policies and decisions that would help them.  Climate change is expected to exacerbate this suffering, while also threatening food security, health and water supplies.

It is right that we address gender and disaster risk reduction issues together.  And it is right that we stress the strong links between those issues and both climate change and poverty reduction.

The best way to do this is through a twenty-first century multi-stakeholder partnership such as that represented here today.  You represent Governments, civil society organizations, international organizations and the private sector.  You are here to share your knowledge and strengths.  You are ready to join hands with others to achieve things you could not possibly accomplish alone.

This conference goes far beyond questions of gender and disaster risk reduction.  At its essence, this conference is about sustainable development.  It is, therefore, about achieving the Millennium Development Goals through a gender-balanced approach, within a comprehensive disaster risk reduction framework.

We all know that much work needs to be done in order to realize all the Millennium Development Goals.  We also know that we are far from achieving the five priorities in disaster risk reduction underlined in the Hyogo Framework for Action.

The global economic crisis is yet another strong reminder of the challenges we face in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  This will be a true test of our global priorities.  Are our commitments to gender equality, disaster risk reduction, poverty reduction and action against climate change just empty pledges?  Or will we understand that most of Africa and sizeable parts of Asia, Europe and the Americas need our commitment even more than they did a year ago?

Taken together, the issues of gender, disaster risk reduction, climate change and poverty reduction make up a complex mix.  To address the gaps between policy and implementation, we need to be smart.  We need to invest before disasters happen, especially in those countries that are too poor to bear the cost alone.  We need to strengthen local and national strategies and mechanisms.  With the right measures, local activities are generally less expensive and more effective in responding to immediate human needs, and can secure a stronger basis for longer-term resilience and response measures.

But the biggest part of the answer is already here in this room ‑‑ a twenty-first century partnership.  I know that you share my sense of urgency about mitigating the growing scourge of disasters and building a safer, more equitable world for all.  I wish you every success in your deliberations.

Thank you.  Xie Xie.

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For information media • not an official record