UN official says small island states ‘suffer disproportionately’ when disasters strike
Deputy secretary general of the United Nation, Amina Mohamed, speaking at the 7th Global Platform in Indonesia. (Photo: CMC)

BALI, Indonesia (CMC) — Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Amina Mohamed, Wednesday highlighted the need to focus on least-developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS) that suffer disproportionately when disasters strike.

Addressing the seventh session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, she told delegates that disasters in LDCs and SIDS “can wipe out decades of development, progress and economic growth in a single event with very serious long term economic and social consequences”.

SIDS, including the Caribbean region, have called on the international community to re-examine the system used to assess countries’ qualification for developmental assistance.

While most Caribbean states’ middle-income nation status disqualifies them from certain types of developmental assistance, the assessment does not take disaster vulnerability into account.

Mohamed said the global community needs to step up international cooperation for prevention and disaster risk reduction in the most vulnerable countries and for the most vulnerable communities, especially women and girls, people with disabilities, the poor, the marginalised, and the isolated.

“One concrete example is the provision of early warning systems, a feasible and effective adaptation measure that provides more than a tenfold return on investment.”

She said that although just 24 hours warning of a storm can reduce by 30 per cent the damage caused, less than half of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) member states have such systems in place.

Mohamed said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has asked the WMO to present an action plan at the next UN climate conference — COP 27 in Egypt in November.

“This will be aimed at ensuring that every person on earth is covered by an early warning system within five years.”

The Global Platform, which continues through May 28, is taking place under the theme “From Risk to Resilience: Towards Sustainable Development for All in a COVID-19 Transformed World”.

Mohamed noted that it is the Global Platform since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, adding that the meeting is taking place as global crises are multiplying with devastating effects, particularly on the poorest and the most vulnerable.

“People around the world are experiencing the impact of the climate emergency on a daily basis. The war in Ukraine is contributing to sky-high food prices and energy prices with serious implications for the global financial system,” she said, noting that at the same time, the world faces the constant threat of other disasters.

“If things continue as they are, we will experience a 1.5 medium to large scale disaster every single day by 2030. As it stands, disasters are already wreaking havoc in our efforts towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Mohammed said that decisions and actions taken at the meeting can inadvertently influence global risk and exposure.

She noted the theme of the Global Platform, adding that in the current context, the meeting takes on additional significance, adding that participants must secure better coherence and implementation of the humanitarian-development nexus.

“That means improving risk governance because, despite our efforts, risk creation is outpacing risk reduction.”

She said that while governments around the world have made many efforts, “we do not yet have the governance frameworks in place to manage the risks adequately, whether from a global pandemic or a tsunami or to mitigate their impact”.

Mohamed said the 2022 global assessment report that she recently launched in New York sets are ways in which government systems can evolve to better address systemic risks.

“It makes clear that in a world of uncertainty, understanding and reducing risk is fundamental to achieving sustainable development,” she said, calling for investments in stronger data capabilities “to ensure that we leave no one behind”.

“Through new multilateral instruments, including the UN’s Complex Risk Analytics Fund, we want to support data ecosystems that can better anticipate, prevent, and respond to complex risks before they turn into full-blown disasters.”

The UN Deputy Secretary General said this includes jointly developing risk analysis and investing in coordination and data infrastructure that enables knowledge sharing and joint anticipatory action.

“Such investments will help us to navigate complex risks earlier, faster, and in a more targeted and efficient manner.”

She said that the public and financial sectors must be “risk proof”.

“We need to think resilience accounts for the real cost of disasters and incentivised risk reduction to stop the spiral of disaster losses.

“We also need to factor disaster risk reduction into our financial frameworks. Alternative measurements beyond gross domestic product GDP should take account of disaster risk and resilience. The multi-dimensional vulnerability index is one such metric,” Mohamed said.

“The world is looking to this forum for leadership, wisdom, experience and expertise. The decisions you take today can play a significant part in preventing another calamity like the COVID-19 pandemic. We can and we must put our efforts firmly behind prevention and risk reduction and build a safe, sustainable, resilient and equitable future for everyone.”

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