Speech at the Hanwang Forum

11 May 2013

Speech by Mr. Patrick Haverman, Deputy Country Director, UNDP China

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests:

Good morning!

It is my great pleasure and privilege to address this prestigious forum, and I want to specially thank the Deyang Municipal Government for sponsoring it. This is indeed a truly international open platform for us to jointly advance the important agenda of disaster prevention and relief and sustainable development.

Our gathering today is particularly significant, as this year witnesses the Lushan earthquake and marks the fifth anniversary of the Wenchuan earthquake. The host city, Deyang, has suffered huge human and economic losses from these two devastating disasters.

However, the city and its people have demonstrated remarkable resilience and optimism, and achieved commendable success in post-earthquake reconstruction in the past five years.

Therefore it is very timely and appropriate for us to assemble here to take stock of our past disaster prevention and relief efforts, and to jointly strengthen our cooperation to build a resilient and sustainable society.

In the last decade, disaster claimed over 1 million lives and caused 1 trillion dollars loss worldwide. A most recent destructive disaster is the Lushan earthquake last month. While we are deeply saddened by the loss of lives and devastation, we are heartened by the tremendous efforts and immediate response by the Chinese government in earthquake relief and recovery. UNDP is supporting the Chinese government with early recovery. Unfortunately

According to UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the global trend is that underlying disaster risk drivers will grow and the risks will be increasingly trans-boundary in nature.  That is why China’s experience in disaster management is particularly worth sharing and international cooperation in that regard is very relevant in today’s context.

We at UNDP perceive disasters as a fundamental threat to development. Our goal is to promote a more resilient form of development with partners. We achieve this objective through strengthening national and local capacities for disaster risk management and through mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into development planning and practices.

We have been working closely with the Chinese government to explore solutions to specific challenges in local contexts, including landslides and debris in Ningxia, snowmelt flood in Xinjiang, as well as drought and desertification in Xinjiang.

The emphasis is on disaster preparedness and awareness, as every dollar invested into this preparedness saves seven dollars in disaster aftermath. For each of these projects, we make sure to address the needs of the most vulnerable, women, children, the aged and the disabled, since they are the ones hit hardest by natural disasters.

Meanwhile, we are about to launch a project with the China Law Society to help improve China’s legal system for disaster preparedness, thus creating an enabling legal environment for successful disaster management.  

In the past years, UNDP has been increasingly committed to building global partnerships and strengthening South-South and North-South cooperation in disaster management. In particular, we are facilitating collaboration efforts between China and Asian countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal, in order to build knowledge sharing networks and assist local communities in strengthen resilience and adapting to climate change.

We are also working on building a platform for China and African countries to cooperate on drought management. These projects join the forces of UNDP, donor agencies, the governments of China and developing countries, aiming at sharing valuable experience in terms of disaster management, preparedness and response.

While UNDP is working to promote civil society engagement and community-based risk reduction, we are very pleased to learn that civil society has played an active role in disaster management in China.

With disaster relief experience gained in the Wenchuan earthquake, civil society organisations acted very swiftly and in an organised manner in response to the Lushan earthquake.

This has been demonstrated by the fact that civil society staff were among the first relief workers permitted on the ground. More encouragingly, new organisation practices start to emerge. The NGOs self-organised themselves by forming the “4.20” alliance, a platform for information and funding sharing, to ensure better coordination and transparency.

With the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between UNDP and Hanwang Forum Preparatory Committee, UNDP will take an important step to enhance its partnerships with private and social sectors.

Looking into the future, UNDP will continue to strive to mainstream disaster prevention and preparedness into national and international development agendas, while looking at innovative ways of collaboration with partners.

This forum provides a very good opportunity for us to share experience and discuss collaborative actions. Together, we will form a more efficient disaster response community to save the humanity from more catastrophes.

Again, thank you and I wish much success to the Forum.