New York

12 April 2012

Secretary-General's message to Interactive Thematic Debate on Disaster Risk Reduction [delivered by Susana Malcorra, Chef de Cabinet]

In January, we outlined an action agenda – five generational imperatives for the coming five years.
One of them is to expand the way we think and act on prevention.
Disaster risk reduction is fundamental to this effort. 
In the midst of a crisis, there may be little space for reflection.  Lives hang in the balance.  Every second counts. 
But there is much we can learn after the fact and there is much we can do to minimize the impact for the future.
We cannot eliminate disasters, but we can reduce the risk.  We can lessen the damage.  We can save more lives. 
We know that disasters caused by natural hazards are taking a heavy toll on communities everywhere – in countries rich and poor.  Economic loss risk continues to increase across all regions and seriously threatens the economies of low-income countries. 
But we also know that common sense investments in early warning and preparedness are making a difference and saving lives.  
We know what works.  Good building design.  Proper land-use planning.  Public education.  Community preparedness.  Effective early warning systems.  Increased capacity to respond to complex disasters. Focusing on the needs and potential of women – the largest untapped resource for change.
As we prepare for the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio-Plus 20 – let us also affirm that disaster risk reduction is critical to sustainable development. 
Disasters exacerbate poverty and undermine development planning, particularly poverty reduction strategies.
When we reduce disaster risk, we increase our chances of achieving the Millennium Development Goals and building a truly sustainable world for all.
It is therefore encouraging that Member States have been so clear.
You have voiced your conviction that disaster risk reduction should not be a standalone issue.
And you have identified how disaster risk reduction must be integrated into the development agenda.
The challenge is to translate this understanding into action.
Progress requires engagement from actors throughout government, civil society and the private sector.
Integrating disaster risk reduction from the beginning, during the planning stage, and taking a consistent approach will ensure the best results.
The evidence for investing in disaster risk reduction is clear.  The political momentum is growing.
Let us continue to be ambitious. Let us work for action in Rio and beyond.
Thank you.  I wish you successful deliberations.