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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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Incheon, Republic of Korea, 11 August 2009 - Secretary-General's remarks at a conference on Building a Local Government Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction

Honourable Mayor Ahn Sang-Soo, Mr. Seong Ryong Choi [NEMA Administrator]

Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to thank the Incheon Metropolitan City and UNISDR for bringing together local governments and national governments to reduce disasters and save lives.

We know the challenge. Asia is home to the largest urban population growth in the world. Around the world, seven out of ten most populous cities are threatened by earthquakes. Six out of ten are vulnerable to storm surge and tsunami waves. And, of course, rising sea temperatures are raising the threat of more devastating hurricanes and cyclones.

And yet, we also know the possibility. With concerted action, we can reduce by half the loss of lives from disasters by 2015. To get there, we must end business as usual. More needs to be done and it needs to be done differently. Local and regional authorities are critical to this effort.

That's precisely what today's Conference is about.

It provides a unique opportunity for national governments and local authorities to discuss strategies to reduce disaster at the local level. It will help close the gap between the needs outlined in the Hyogo Framework for Action and the realities on the ground.

Today I urge local authorities to accelerate all efforts to make cities safer to prevent the loss of lives and assets.

By conducting risk assessments of critical infrastructure such as schools and hospitals and public buildings.

By strengthening public awareness and education about risk and reinforcing disaster management and preparedness.

By engaging private sector investments and targeting public investments to build “disaster resilient cities.”

This will take a collective effort.

I trust this conference will mobilise political support and commitment, not only by local governments but also by national governments, civil society organisations, academic organizations, and the private sector.

With strong advocacy and action, your emerging alliance of local governments can make tremendous progress in reducing losses and saving lives.

By joining forces, we can protect livelihoods, make our schools and hospitals and other buildings safe, and promote a greener, cleaner future.

Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is my first time as Secretary-General to visit Songdo.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have been travelling to many places around the world, witnessing for myself how local governments can contribute to all these global challenges.

It is not only the national governments. It is not only the President or Prime Minister or Government Ministers who can address climate change, sustainable economic development, and address poverty and disease. We need support and participation of local leaders: mayors, governors, county chiefs.

We also need civil society participation. This is where we are today. And I was so much interested in what I have seen and what I have witnessed today. I have been travelling all around the world, wherever I could find and learn the lessons and consequences of all these challenges.

Now in SongDo today, of Incheon Metropolitan City, I'm so proud. Not only as Secretary-General of the United Nations but also as one of the Korean citizens, for all the work achieved, [as well as] the dynamic and the visionary leadership of Mayor Ahn Sang-soo.

And I applaud him and I commend his leadership and I also commend your participation and your cooperation, as well as your engagement as cities to make this city, Incheon city and SongDo, as one of the most eco-friendly, greener city. I sincerely hope that this will set the great example.

In that regard, it is no accident that Mayor Ahn Sang-soo has been honoured with the prestigious award for public service. Mr. Mayor i believe this is the testament to your own visionary leadership and global citizenship in pursuing developments in an environmentally sustainable way. I hope your example will be emulated by many cities and countries around the world. It is crucially important that all the countries and all the cities, local government leaders emulate and learn from these experiences.

Mr. Mayor, you truly deserve this, and please accept my sincere congratulations and I count on your continued support and leadership.

Distinguished citizens and participants, thank you for coming together and showing the way in addressing our common challenges of the humanity for the whole world and I count on your commitment and leadership.

Thank you very much.

Statements on 11 August 2009