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Speech by Ms. Pratibha Mehta-UN Resident Coordinator Viet Nam on the International Day for Disaster Reduction 2015

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Date: Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Event: Observance of International Day for Disaster Reduction 2015

Dr. Hoang Van Thang, Vice Minister of Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)

Members of the Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control (CCFSC);

Representatives from the Government;

Colleagues from the international community, civil society, academies;

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning

Let me start by warmly welcoming all of you to this event to mark the International Day for Disaster Reduction 2015 and to celebrate the progress and achievements Viet Nam has made to reduce exposure to disasters and enhance awareness about reducing risk.  This event is also timely given the recent global agreement of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. I would like to thank the Government for organizing this celebration.

The theme of this year’s event: “Knowledge for Life,” is particularly relevant for Viet Nam because of the country’s rich heritage of indigenous and local knowledge in responding to disasters. This local knowledge is vital for preparedness and can be passed on from generation to generation. It is even more effective when complemented by advanced technologies and up-to-date scientific information that can help enhance the country’s resilience in the years to come.

According to the 2015 Global Risk Index, Viet Nam ranks among the top 10 countries affected by the impacts of weather-related loss events (storms, floods, heat waves etc.). Since the 1970’s disasters have caused more than 500 deaths annually in Viet Nam, and cost more than 1.5% of GDP in economic losses.  Extreme hazards events in Viet Nam are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.   Viet Nam’s climate change intended nationally determined contribution report (known as the INDC) which was launched yesterday, highlights that these costs could well rise to 3-5% of GDP by 2030.

However, Viet Nam also has a strong track record in coping with disasters. The Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control was established in 1946.  Since then a number of key policies and programmes to respond to disasters have been implemented which have dramatically reduced disaster deaths per capita.  The first ever Law on Natural Disaster Prevention and Control which was enacted in 2013 and is widely seen an example of global good practice.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Looking forward to the future, I would like to take this opportunity to suggest some ideas for a next generation of efforts to enhance resilience in Viet Nam.

First, it is important to have sufficient and predictable funding for deepening and broadening the implementation of the National Community Based Disaster Management Programme. Over the past 5 years, the Programme has made significant progress to actively engage more than 1700 communities in risk reduction. The more communes that are able to access and learn skills in CBDRM, the more likely that millions of women and men, and girls and boys, in partnership with local and central Government, will take action to tackle climate extremes in the future.

Second, the participation and contribution of the private sector is essential for the successful implementation of the Government’s strategies and plans to cope with climate-induced risks. The financial mechanism under the Disaster Prevention and Control Law and updated disaster risk reduction strategy should present predictable and transparent fiduciary policies that aim to mobilize the capital and know-how of the private sector in all aspects of disaster prevention and control.

Third, climate change will increase the risk of loss and damage as climate extremes become more intense and variable; challenging the limits of our human ability to effectively adapt. These changes will require new and innovative policies and mechanisms to reduce and transfer risks. It is important that individuals, organizations and agencies from both public and private sectors should have access to systematic risk data such as historical disaster loss and damage and future climate change projections. Innovative solutions such as risk-insurance packages or developing early warning communication applications for crops or evacuation can help reduce losses and speed up recovery when disasters strike.

Finally, innovative tools such as smartphone apps and video-clips can be used to capture the best of traditional knowledge and experiences in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and make them accessible to everyone. For example, knowledge of early warning signals in nature can be vital to ensuring early action is taken to mitigate the impact of both slow and fast onset disasters such as droughts, heatwaves, storms and floods. We will know we are on track when savvy young high-tech experts and traditional experts are both able to contribute their skills and know-how to reduce disaster impacts and address climate change.  

Ladies and gentlemen:

2015 has been a landmark year for sustainable development: In March global leaders adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and just two weeks ago, a new set of Sustainable Development Goals outlined a future path to eliminating poverty by 2030.  And in December, the world is expected to adopt a new climate change agreement to cope with the most critical challenges of our time.  Effectively managing disaster risk is a central facet of each of these efforts.

It is encouraging that local leaders and communities participating in this celebration will share their success stories and practices in building resiliency for their communities. This is a good starting point for community-based learning and knowledge sharing. Their capacity, skills and wisdom is key to our efforts to cope with the new challenges of extreme disasters and climate risks.   

The UN in Viet Nam is proud to be part of this community-based knowledge journey over the past years. The UN is has been working closely with the Government and international and national NGOs, including Viet Nam Women Union to promote active participation of women at all levels and in remote rural and mountainous areas.  The UN in Viet Nam will continue to collaborate with the Government, development partners, non-government organizations, students, and communities to harness local knowledge and new technologies to further resilient building efforts in Viet Nam.

I would like to end by wishing you all good health and fruitful celebration.  

Thank you.