Live to Tell: Community Participation and Responsibility in Earthquake Disaster Prevention

Dec 6, 2016

Live to Tell: Community Participation and Responsibility in Earthquake Disaster Prevention

Remarks by Beate Trankmann, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative

Your Excellency Mr. Ts. Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia

Honorable Mr. Khurelsukh, Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia

Brigadier General Badral, Chief of NEMA

Representatives of development community

Esteemed Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am pleased that Mongolia is joining the global campaign “Live to Tell” and the call for increasing disaster risk awareness of communities. Empowering communities and individuals is vital to strengthen their ability to prepare, cope and recover from disaster impacts.

Disasters are having a major impact around the world. Man-made and climate-induced disasters cause increased humanitarian stress. They exacerbate food insecurity, water scarcity, conflict and migration and increase the vulnerability of the poor. During the last decade, over 700 thousand people have lost their lives, over 1.4 million have been injured and approximately 23 million have been made homeless as a result of disasters. Overall, more than 1.5 billion people have been affected by disasters, with women, children and people in vulnerable situations disproportionately feeling the brunt. The total economic loss over the decade is estimated to be more than $1.3 trillion[1].

Reducing disaster risk is a cost-effective investment in preventing future losses.

To do so, we need to assess and understand disaster risks to address existing challenges and be prepared for future ones. The more we understand risk and vulnerability, the better equipped will we be to mitigate the impact of disasters when they strike and save lives.

I applaud the Government’s initiative to assess public buildings such as schools, kindergartens, hospitals, libraries and other public institutions and places for their earthquake resistance. 

Earthquakes commonly cause the most widespread destruction.  In the past two decades, earthquakes accounted for more deaths than all other natural hazards combined, causing nearly 56% of total global disaster mortality between 1996 and 2015[2].

Mongolia is a nation of nomads. Yet, it is now more urbanized than many other parts of Asia. More than two-thirds of Mongolians live in cities. Close to half of the country’s entire population lives in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar – which has been developing fast in the last two decades.

Development is not disaster neutral. On the contrary: development can create and exacerbate or alternately reduce risks.

  • Every house that is built on a floodplain is a potential for tragedy.
  • Every kilogram of cement or steel reduced from original building plans and construction norms in a building or infrastructure project to cut corners and decrease costs is a recipe for loss of lives.

This means that our development choices today will determine whether we are disaster prone tomorrow! To make sure that development choices and decisions do not put us at risk; to ensure that wein fact reduce risks – we first and foremost need to understand and calculate the risks as well as our vulnerabilities. Is the country/city earthquake prone? Which areas? How robust is the infrastructure? How many schools and other public places are located in vulnerable areas? How many people live there? How many of them are kids, women, disabled, elderly? Taking risk informed decisions will help to protect development and save lives.

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 and actions to reduce the risks. Whether it is

  • setting and enforcing national norms or standards for construction so that buildings can withstand an earthquake; or
  • providing local governments with the knowledge and tools to work with communities to understand and deal with local hazards; or
  • coming up with strategies to empower and protect vulnerable population groups such as children, the elderly, disabled or women who tend to be disproportionately affected by disasters; or
  • ensuring sufficient money is allocated in the government budget to implement these measures--

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 into all stages of development planning, budgeting, implementation and monitoring, across all sectors and levels - national, regional or community.

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. As the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban-Ki Moon puts it, “it is in everybody’s interest, and it is everybody’s business”[3]. 

The UN in Mongolia has been a long standing partner of the Government in disaster  management. In line with the Sendai Framework and the Sustainable Development Goals, we will continue to support mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into development and improve emergency preparedness and response capacities at community and institutional levels. Community based DRR approaches promoted by UNDP and others can help inform community earthquake preparedness and we will hear about the work of a number of UN agencies in subsequent interventions. 

We look forward to continue working with Mongolia to mitigate against disasters, reduce the cost of response and protect the most vulnerable.

Thank you and I wish you fruitful discussions.


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