New York

1 October 2013

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at briefing on the work of African Regional Economic Communities [as prepared for delivery]

I am pleased to address all of you today. The theme of the briefing is close to my heart. I have been privileged to work with partners in Africa for many decades. And during this time we specifically focused on humanitarian crises and disasters. I have been in Africa during drought emergencies. I have seen the effects of disasters up close. I am resolved to do everything possible to promote resilience.

I am particularly pleased to welcome so many high-level representatives of the African Regional Economic Communities here today.
The United Nations deeply values the African Union, and the Regional Economic Communities. You are essential partners on peace and development efforts across the continent.

I especially applaud your vision to build a peaceful, thriving and self-reliant Africa.

I hope today to share my experiences as former Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and as the co-chair of the Regional Coordination Mechanism. But I especially look forward to learning from all of you.

The African Union is our trusted partner. We can look back on many successes in recent years, from initiatives on peace and security to progress on the Millennium Development Goals.

Now we have to look ahead to looming challenges. Humanitarian crises and natural disasters are on the rise worldwide. Conflict, urbanization, environmental degradation, and pandemics are all combining to intensify the problem.

Africa is particularly vulnerable to the threat posed by climate change. Droughts, floods and unpredictable weather are displacing populations, devastating areas and generating competition for scarce resources that can even lead to conflict.

These crises affect tens of millions of people every year. The poor and the most vulnerable, including women, children, and the elderly are hit hardest. Individuals are devastated and whole economies can lose hard-won progress.

To reach the MDGs, we must address chronic humanitarian needs and crises and help build resilience. At the same time, we should factor this into the discussions on our post-2015 development agenda.

We especially have to help the many African countries that face chronic humanitarian crises and disasters that block their path to sustainable development. Building resilience and reducing vulnerability in these countries is essential to tackling poverty. And that will protect the development gains made in recent years.

Countries have primary responsibility to respond to humanitarian crises and disasters, but they need international solidarity. When we work together, we can help all States cope with the threat of disasters.

I welcome the proposals made so far to build and reinforce regional capacities. I am especially interested in the setting up of early warning and early response systems in regions, countries and communities. These have enormous potential to save lives, from warning families when they need to evacuate to helping them reunite after a disaster strikes.

Like all of you, I see Africa’s development challenges as more than statistics. I have met people who have lost their sense of dignity and security during terrible food shortages. I have spoken to families who want what families everywhere deserve: namely to provide for the basics of life.

Let us keep these struggling people at the forefront of our discussions. And let us remember that they are not just victims who need help; they are individuals with great potential who deserve support so they can contribute to our shared future.

I look forward to your ideas.
Thank you.