24 October 2017

Risk-Informed Financing, Development Crucial for Long-Term Disaster Resilience, Saving Lives, Deputy Secretary-General Says at Meeting on Recent Hurricanes

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Economic and Social Council special meeting “Aftermath of Recent Hurricanes:  Achieving a Risk-Informed and Resilient 2030 Agenda”, in New York today:

I am honoured to address, on behalf of the Secretary-General, the Economic and Social Council at this special meeting on the aftermath of recent hurricanes.  I thank the President of the Economic and Social Council for convening this important and timely meeting.  I would like to express special appreciation to Ambassador Inga Rhonda King, Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, for her passion and commitment on this important issue.  I join the President in expressing my deepest condolences to the affected people and Governments.

Disasters can erase, in an instant, development gains made over many years, leading to death, displacement, damage, disruption and despair.  The international community has a responsibility to support affected countries to become more resilient; to promote a risk-informed approach to reconstruction; and to strengthen their financial systems so that they can cope with such large‑scale shocks.

As you know, the Secretary-General recently travelled to Antigua and Barbuda and to Dominica to show solidarity and see the damage for himself.  He made a very strong appeal not only for humanitarian aid, but also for new mechanisms for building resilience.

We commend the Governments of the Caribbean region for their leadership in preparedness and response.  The regional emergency response mechanisms, including through the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, along with the pre-deployment of United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination teams across the region and international solidarity, have helped save lives.  Assessments are under way through the post-disaster needs assessment of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, and the Damage and Loss Assessment of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

However, more must be done at all levels to manage disaster and climate risk and to prepare for future extreme weather events, which are likely to grow in severity and frequency.  Risk-informed sustainable development is an absolute necessity and should inform our policies and investment criteria.

Risk-informed development also requires risk-governance systems that can overcome the policy, institutional and programme siloes in which work on climate change, disaster risk reduction and environment is often pursued.  The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction gives us the tools to address new challenges and opportunities.

The devastating impact of severe climate events on vulnerable communities translates into acute needs and high costs.  As we move into recovery, we need to do things differently:  use energy sources that are not reliant on the import of fossil fuels, construct homes and businesses away from hazardous coastal areas or ravines and ensure that livelihoods can rebound much faster.

We applaud the vision of Caribbean Governments in moving towards green economies and renewable energy.  We also applaud the region’s citizens in responding to the disasters, and we should find every means to support their efforts.  Remittances from citizens outside of the region are today even more important in meeting immediate needs and investing in rebuilding better than before.  International efforts need to be accelerated to reduce the costs of transferring such payments, which would mean more reaches the families and communities that need them most.

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 will require public and private investments that can counteract the adverse effects of climate change and the consequences of rapid urban population growth.  Investing in disaster-resilient infrastructure and housing pays off over the long term by reducing economic losses and loss of life.  We must harness the power of technology, innovation and partnerships to move towards a green, clean, sustainable energy future.

We must help now, but also help the region to prepare for a future that is likely to be marked by a higher frequency and intensity of external shocks.

As the Secretary-General has stressed, we must ensure that financing supports the longer-term resilience of affected countries facing the growing threat of external shocks.  We should reconsider eligibility criteria for concessional financing, so that a country’s vulnerability can be taken into account in a more systemic manner.  This has been done in the past to support middle-income countries hosting large refugee populations, notably Jordan and Lebanon.

I would like to highlight the work of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development, convened by the Secretary-General, on the inventory of quick disbursing mechanisms for financing in the aftermath of shocks, that will be published in its 2018 report.

Today, the fundamentals of financing are not aligned to the needs of a world facing the effects of climate change.  We need to innovate in our approaches to structuring finance going forward, encouraging the use of debt instruments that take into account the vulnerability of countries in order to provide a reprieve from debt payments in the immediate aftermath of a crisis. There are precedents to using so-called “state-contingent” debt instruments, for example with built in catastrophe clauses.  More ambitious innovations should also be considered, such as ECLAC’s proposal for debt for climate adaptation swaps linked to investment in resilience in Caribbean countries.

We urge the Council to encourage urgent and concrete actions that the international community can take to support initiatives to assist the affected countries to pursue a risk-informed approach to implementing the 2030 Agenda.  Such actions need to address the three-fold aim of meeting immediate needs, putting into place new concessionary financing arrangements, and designing and implementing a framework for financing resilience for the long term.

The Secretary General looks forward to determined follow-up action by the Council to ensure strong progress on the ground.

The United Nations system will contribute at all three levels — global, regional and local — continuing to assist affected countries and territories in their efforts towards recovery and resilience, and working with our partners to secure financing arrangements that support climate-resilient investments for the long-term.

As the Secretary-General has stated time and time again, the 2030 Agenda is humanity’s best tool for a future of prosperity, peace and dignity for all.   This is an opportunity we cannot waste.  Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals universally will require a different approach to the way Governments and societies approach sustainable development.  And to the way we anticipate and manage our crises. Our partners — in the Caribbean and beyond — can count on the United Nations as a strong advocate, committed partner and catalyser of partnerships and financing to ensure that we all remain on track to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.

For information media. Not an official record.