DISASTERS A SYMPTOM OF UNSUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS IN REMARKS TO MINISTERIAL MEETING ON REDUCING RISKS IN CHANGING CLIMATE

1 October 2008
DSG/SM/417

DISASTERS A SYMPTOM OF UNSUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS IN REMARKS TO MINISTERIAL MEETING ON REDUCING RISKS IN CHANGING CLIMATE

1 October 2008
Deputy Secretary-General
DSG/SM/417
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DISASTERS A SYMPTOM OF UNSUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS

IN REMARKS TO MINISTERIAL MEETING ON REDUCING RISKS IN CHANGING CLIMATE

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the Ministerial Meeting on Reducing Disaster Risks in a Changing Climate, in New York on 29 September:

I am pleased to be here at the closing of this important meeting.  Many speakers before have adequately covered the links between climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

In closing this session, I would like to emphasize that adapting to climate change also has much in common with poverty reduction.  So please allow me to focus on this angle.

Both climate change and poverty reduction require us to address people’s vulnerabilities.  Both compel us to identify unsafe conditions, from fragile local economies to limited institutional capacities.  And both are integral parts of our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Disasters are, in many respects, a symptom of unsustainable development.  When people see no choice but to live in hazard-prone areas in badly planned housing, or to manage their environment in an unsustainable way, they become exposed to the extreme weather associated with climate change.

Living in such areas also increases the likelihood that floods, droughts, desertification, wildfires or landslides will lead to disasters.  And after a disaster, the way out of poverty becomes more complicated.  People can fall deeper into poverty, making the impact of the next disaster even worse.  In short, it’s a vicious circle.

Strong national and local commitment to disaster risk-reduction can break this cycle.  It can make communities more resilient and better able to cope with a changing climate.  Strategies and public expenditures must target specific challenges, such as land degradation.

We must also ensure that strategies to reduce the risk of environmental disaster and poverty are compatible.  The relevant ministries must not only talk to each other -- they must also work together.

We must do our utmost to avoid seeing disasters turn our most important buildings -- schools and hospitals -- into instruments of death.  These buildings must continue to operate during emergencies, and to play a vital role in recovery.  The economic burden caused by the destruction of infrastructure and the cost of reconstruction are extremely high.

We must do everything we can to save ourselves from the repeated burden of rebuilding.  Let us utilize disaster-related construction technologies and techniques to preserve the development gains these structures make possible.

In addition, we must not forget the role and fate of women.  They are on the frontline of adapting to climate change in developing countries.

Women are the everyday managers of natural and environmental resources.  Women have the experience and knowledge to contribute to the resilience of their communities.  Women represent an immense source of potential and power to combat the increased disaster risks that climate change will bring.

I look forward to working with you to implement the Hyogo Framework for Action and to achieve three goals simultaneously: a reduction in disaster risks; more systematic adaptation to climate change; and protection of the development gains we have made to date.

I also wish you every success as we prepare for the crucially important Climate Change Conference in Poznan three months from now.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. [John] Holmes for his leadership and the great work he is doing on behalf of the Organization.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.