4 March 2015

‘Sustainability Starts in Sendai,’ Secretary-General Says of Japan Summit on Disaster Risk Reduction, at Launch of Assessment Report

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the launch of the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction: Making Development Sustainable: The Future of Disaster Risk Management, in New York, today:

It’s a great pleasure for me to be here with you to discuss the very important subject that is disaster risk reduction on the eve of World Conference on this subject in Sendai, Japan.

This 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction comes at a critical time.  In just 10 days, I will travel to Sendai, Japan, to participate in the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.

We expect many high-level delegations, including many Heads of State and Government and Ministers, as [an] unprecedented number of high-level leaders are coming to Japan.  We are also expecting many partners and civil society leaders.  This should be the highest attendance at any global gathering ever held on this issue.

The message is clear: Sustainability starts in Sendai.  There, we will begin a series of important global conferences by meeting on disaster risk reduction.

Then, in July: the conference on financing for development in Addis Ababa.

In September, as you are well aware, there will be a special summit meeting of the United Nations where we expect many leaders will participate to adopt the post-2015 development agenda, including a set of sustainable development goals.

And we should finish this year in December in Paris.  As Member States have agreed on many occasions, we expect a universal, global and meaningful climate change agreement to be adopted.

This year of sustainability starts in Sendai, in Japan, for three major reasons.  First, disaster risk reduction inherently involves forward planning, so it is a natural place to begin.  Second, investments in this area advance both sustainable development and climate action.  Third, our vision for development and climate action is universal.  We are working for a life of dignity for all.  That means helping the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries to manage disaster risk.  When we do that, we honour our pledge to leave no one behind.

The world is experiencing more frequent and more intense natural disasters.  I have travelled to earthquake zones.  I have met with victims of cyclones, floods and hurricanes.  I have seen the wreckage from the Fukushima “triple disaster” that devastated Japan four years ago this month.  This solemn anniversary adds urgency to success at the Sendai Conference.

This United Nations Headquarters itself was hit when Super Storm Sandy broke the banks of the East River here in 2012.  That was the second costliest disaster in United States history.

Globally, disasters cost the world more than $300 billion in losses every year.  This staggering price tag affects the ability of Governments to provide basic services.  It diverts funds from critical infrastructure.  Businesses suffer.  There are fewer jobs and less income.  The poorest are hit the hardest when disasters strike.  Low-income countries risk losing five times as much of their building stock as richer countries.  

Disasters are also far deadlier in poor countries.  Low- and middle-income countries suffer nearly 90 per cent of fatalities.

We have to act.  Disaster risk reduction saves lives and cuts losses.  Already, more than 100 countries have national institutions dedicated to disaster risk management.  One hundred and twenty have made policy or legal reforms.

Momentum is growing.  Now it has to take root in development practice.  That is why I welcome the focus of this report on “Making Development Sustainable”.

The report shows how investing in risk prevention pays high dividends while saving lives.  It charts a path toward a more disaster-resilient future.

To advance along that path, we will take a major collective step forward at the Conference in Japan later this month.

Sustainability starts in Sendai — and it continues in Addis, New York and Paris.  This is our journey to reach a life of dignity for all.  I count on your strong support, engagement and leadership.

For information media. Not an official record.