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''Post-Haiyan – A Way Forward''

European Commission - SPEECH/14/441   06/06/2014

Other available languages: none

European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Kristalina GEORGIEVA

EU Commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response

''Post-Haiyan – A Way Forward''

ASEM Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management

Manila, 5 June 2014

Dear President,

Dear Foreign Affairs Secretary, Dear Defense Secretary, Senators, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to start by thanking the Philippines for hosting the ASEM Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, but even more for bringing delegates to Tacloban yesterday to make it clear why we are here, why it is so critically important to embrace this task of building resilient societies in Asia, in Europe and for the whole of humanity.

This was my second visit to Tacloban. I came immediately after super-typhoon Haiyan (known as “Yolanda” in the Philippines) hit and I was terrified by the devastation: houses and livelihoods destroyed, streets and roads blocked by debris, lines of body bags on the two sides of the main road. So when I returned yesterday it was such a relief Mr. President, to see from the airplane not ruins but shiny roofs of the houses rebuilt and on the ground to talk to people who have taken their lives back in their hands.

Mr. President, I would like to convey to you my huge admiration for the strength and the resilience of your nation. Yes, there are still wounds to be healed, yes there are still houses to be rebuilt, yes there are still businesses that need to step on their feet, but what you have achieved in these six months is remarkable and it is a lesson for all of us.

I am proud that we in Europe are making a contribution to this recovery. Our people were so touched by what has happened here that in the days after the typhoon there was an outpour of solidarity, and which has continued up to now. Europe has collectively contributed one billion dollars. Remarkably almost 75 % of this is from private sources. And this people-to-people solidarity is what the world needs more of for the future to come.

I also thought yesterday that there is no better way to commemorate the victims and the heroes of super-typhoon Yolanda then by coming together to build more resilient societies everywhere we live. And there is no time to waste. Because of climate change disasters are more frequent and more severe. Because of population growth, urbanisation, environmental degradation when they hit more people are affected and there is more damage.

Over the last three decades the cost of natural disasters has quadrupled, from 50 billion dollars in average per year in the eighties to 200 billion in average per year in the last decade. And in three of the last four years it has exceeded 200 billion dollars, so we know the trend would continue to go up. And nobody is immune.

We in Europe have our own share of calamities. For example in Central Europe, Germany, Hungary, Czech Republic we have seen within thirteen years two “once in a century” floods. Right now in the Balkans, where I come from, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia are facing biblical floods that have pushed out of their homes half a million people. The destruction is in the order of billions of euros.

But we can do something about it! And this is a very important message for us to come out from this conference with. We can build preparedness and prevention in everything we do. No, we cannot stop natural disasters from happening. But we can prevent them from killing our elderly, our children, the men and the women of our countries. We can prevent them from causing this devastating damage.

How can we do that? Well, the number one priority in my view is to turn around the pyramid of our investments that today is upside-down. Today we invest only 4 % of the total spending related to disasters on preparedness and prevention. We spend 96 % to respond. Yes, it is important to help people step on their feet. But it is even more important to prevent them from falling down to begin with. Turning this pyramid of the investments around would go a long way towards having resilient societies. And the evidence is so clear that it makes financial and economic sense. One peso, one euro, one dollar invested in prevention brings 4 to 7 times savings in terms of reduction in damage. And I always ask people: "can you tell me of investment that brings 400 to 700 % return". In my personal portfolio I have none.

We need to get a mindset to turn around our future towards more security and stability for our children. We in Europe are taking very important steps in this direction.

First, we have passed a new, very important legislation that makes risk assessment, preparedness and prevention mandatory for our countries. By 2016 all European Union Member States will know what exactly the threat to their citizens and economies is, how well equipped they are to deal with these threats and how to address them. And we will make investments in line with this philosophy of “prevention rather than cure”.

Second, we have turned around our development and humanitarian aid policies to integrate resilience as a key component. In countries that are most vulnerable we emphasize exactly on this: helping the countries and communities to better withstand shocks.

Third, we take international cooperation as the only way forward. No country is rich enough on its own to deal with this more difficult, fragile future. Even Japan, the best-prepared country in the world, was brought on its knees by the Great East Japan earthquake. And in this international cooperation we integrate five core principles.

1) Information – having good system to know what are the threats and how we can cope with them.

2) A very strong focus on results – how do we know whether our communities are more secure, how do we measure this impact in resilience?

3) Make sure that disaster risk reduction is actually a contribution to growth - that it doesn't take but gives to our economies and to our societies.

4) Make sure that we focus on most vulnerable people: the children, the women, the elderly, and the handicapped. In any disaster 80 % of the victims come from the 20 % most vulnerable people.

5) Last, but not least, take the 2015 Sendai meeting on the post-Hyogo Framework for Action as a huge chance to set the world on a more sustainable course. And I am confident that the “Tacloban declaration” would feed straight into success in Sendai on 11th March next year.

Thank you!


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