High Level Development Dialogue on Strengthening the Coherence Between Disaster Reduction, Response to Climate Change and Sustainable Development

May 11, 2015

Remarks by Ms. Sezin Sinanoglu, UN Resident Coordinator

11 May 2015 - Government House, Grand Hall - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Your Excellency Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Khurelsukh,

Your Excellency Ms. Margareta Wahlstrom, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Three years ago, UNDP set out to organize a series of meetings, called the Development Dialogues, with the aim of sparking discussion and debate on key development issues in Mongolia. The Development Dialogues have since expanded to the larger UN family. And today, on behalf of the whole UN Country Team in Mongolia, I am very happy to welcome you to this High Level Development Dialogue – the 11th in our series - to discuss the linkages between Disaster Risk Reduction and Development.

Our meeting today is very special. It comes right after the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in March in Sendai this year and provides us an opportunity to discuss the outcome of that Conference and to see how it can be translated to the Mongolia context. Mongolia was very well represented in that Conference – 19 people from Government, civil society, the press and others participated under the leadership of the Deputy Prime Minister. I had the opportunity to interact with them both before and after the Conference and was hugely impressed at how well prepared they were and how keen they were to get down to business as soon as they came back. Today’s Dialogue is a testament to that commitment and that energy to ensure the risk of disasters are reduced in Mongolia. I would like to very sincerely acknowledge and thank the Deputy Prime Minister for his excellent leadership on this topic as well as his very strong partnership with the United Nations. Thank you Sir!

Our meeting today is special also because we have with us the person who led the Sendai Conference, Ms. Wahlstrom. Her presence is an exceptional opportunity for us to raise the profile of this topic among the Mongolian public and to benefit from her great knowledge and global outlook as well as the larger experience of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Welcome and thank you for being with us today!

Distinguished guests:

Our topic is the linkages between development and disasters. Let me start out by saying that development is not disaster neutral. On the contrary: development can create, exacerbate or alternately reduce risk.

  • Every house that is built on a floodplain is a potential for tragedy.
  • Every kilogramme of cement or steel stolen from a construction is a recipe for loss of lives.
  • Every herder who overgrazes their pasture, or does not prepare for a dzud has the potential to become impoverished.

Our development choices today will determine whether we are disaster prone tomorrow!

To make sure we make the development choices and decisions that do not put us at risk; to make sure that we in fact reduce risks – we first and foremost need to understand and assess the risks as well as our vulnerabilities. This means, on the one hand, that we understand hazards. For example: is the country earthquake prone? Which areas? How many people live there? How robust is the infrastructure? We need to ask and research all of these.

On the other, we need to understand the root causes, the drivers of vulnerabilities. An example is poverty. Poverty makes people vulnerable. It reduces their choices. For lack of knowledge and of opportunity, it is the poor that mostly build their houses on flood plains and who are washed away at the first flood. We need to understand who the most vulnerable are, why and how.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Knowing the risk and the vulnerabilities is the first step. The next step is to come up with clear and concrete strategies, actions to reduce the risks. Whether it is

·       setting and enforcing national norms or standards for construction so buildings can withstand an earthquake; or

  • identifying ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change; or
  • providing local governments the knowledge and tools to work with communities to understand and deal with local hazards– from fires to mining accidents to landslides; or
  • coming up with strategies to empower and protect vulnerable population groups: children, the elderly, disabled or women who are all disproportionately affected by disasters; or
  • ensuring sufficient money is allocated in the government budget to respond to all of these --

there is much that can and should be done.  As such, disaster risk reduction is a cross cutting, multi-sectoral challenge and can only be fully realized if it is integrated throughout development – into all sectors, into all elements of planning, budgeting, implementation and monitoring, and at all levels, national, regional or local.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today Mongolia has an excellent window of opportunity to ensure its development path is risk informed and reduces risks. The Mongolian Parliament has embarked on an important exercise to prepare a new Development Vision and Plan for the country. It is now, right now, that the country needs to assess its disaster risks and integrates responses into this new Development Vision. I encourage everyone to engage in this process, especially our high level participants to this Development Dialogue who are the key policy makers, the shakers and movers in the country.  

Another opportunity is with UB city. The city has recently approved its Master Plan and even more recently, its Economic Development Plan. They are just starting to implement these two Plans. At this still very early stage of implementation, I encourage UB city officials to review those plans again with an eye for disaster risks and identify measures and implementation actions to reduce and mitigate them.

Distinguished guests,

It is obvious from all of this that disaster risk reduction is not the job of one agency, one ministry alone. Neither is it the job of the Government alone. It is the job of everyone. It is a collective responsibility – where everyone understands risks and works to reduce and mitigate them. I am very happy that this afternoon the country is launching a National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which brings together stakeholders from all parts of society, whether it is private sector, the civil society, academia or local governments to understand and work together to reduce risks and manage disasters. I congratulate the Government on this initiative and offer the continued support of the UN to make sure it succeeds.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The UN has a long-standing relationship with the Government of Mongolia in preventing, preparing for and managing disasters. 10 years ago we helped establish the National Emergency Management Agency. Today we are jointly managing a Humanitarian Country Team and a contingency planning exercise. All UN agencies are working in their areas of expertise to help identify and reduce risks, build national and local capacities for preparedness or emergency response, to raise public awareness and educate, to assist rural and urban communities overcome their vulnerabilities and much more. We stand ready to continue and expand that work!

Let me end by thanking the Deputy Prime Minister and his office for their leadership in organizing this important event, the National Emergency Management Agency for their long lasting, strong and very fruitful partnership with the UN, the panelists for their time and interest to contribute to this discussion, colleagues from ISDR for partnering with us in this Development Dialogue and all of you for coming to our meeting.  

On behalf of the UN Country Team in Mongolia, I thank you and wish you a successful meeting.

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