26 November 2018

Countries Suffer Up to 40 Per Cent Loss in Gross Domestic Product Annually from Water-Related Disasters, Secretary-General Tells Symposium

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message to the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters Symposium, in Tokyo today:

I commend the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disaster, as well as my Special Envoy for Disaster Risk Reduction and Water, Han Seung-soo, for convening this important meeting and symposium.

Globally, water-related disasters have accounted for almost 90 per cent of the 1,000 most devasting natural disasters since 1990.  The damage attributed to water-related disasters is enormous — 15 to 40 per cent of annual Gross Domestic Product for some countries — countries that are often least resilient to disasters.

And climate change is exacerbating the problem.  Higher temperatures and extreme weather conditions are projected to affect the availability and distribution of rainfall, snowmelt, river flows and groundwater.  This will further impair water quality and bring other potentially grave consequences since water is the primary medium through which climate change affects people, ecosystems and economies.

Climate change is the defining challenge of our time.  That is why next month’s climate conference in Katowice, Poland, must be a success.  And it is why I am convening a Climate Summit next September, to raise climate ambition and accelerate action.  The United Nations is fully committed to supporting global efforts on water and disasters through partnerships and policy dialogues among Member States and other stakeholders.  I wish you a successful meeting and symposium.

For information media. Not an official record.