Monthly Archives: March 2013

Secretary-General, at General Assembly Session on Water and Disasters, Stresses Importance of Early Warning, Disaster Education, Resilient Structures

Secretary-General, at General Assembly Session on Water and Disasters, Stresses

Importance of Early Warning, Disaster Education, Resilient Structures


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the Special Thematic Session of the General Assembly on Water and Disasters, in New York on 6 March:

Thank you all for attending this Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters together with members of my Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.  I am deeply grateful for their advocacy and support.

It is a special pleasure to welcome Han Seung-soo [Founding Chair of the High-Level Expert Panel on Water and Disasters] and the [Advisory] Board [on Water and Sanitation] back to the General Assembly that he so ably presided over from 2001 to 2002 at the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly.

This is the first General Assembly thematic session on water and disasters.  It brings together representatives of the international community, Governments and civil society.  You have the collective expertise we need to advance progress.

Water-related disasters are a regular feature of life on our warming planet.  Just last month, an earthquake in the Pacific triggered a tsunami that wreaked havoc on the Solomon Islands.  I offer my condolences to all those who were affected — the families that lost homes, the individuals who lost livelihoods and the children whose sense of security was deeply shaken.

I have seen these survivors in countries around the world.  I visited Myanmar in 2008 after Cyclone Nargis killed tens of thousands of people.  I travelled to Pakistan in 2010 after massive floods displaced 20 million people.  In 2011, I went to Fukushima, Japan, when the population was still recovering from the “triple disaster” of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident.  Today we will hear from survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake.  I look forward to learning from them.

I have been inspired by those who survived disasters — and even those who did not.  One volunteer firefighter from Fukushima was with his family when the evacuation started.  They wanted him to come with them to safety.  But instead he rushed into danger to help others.  He said, “This is my job and I cannot run away; I have to help them.”  Of course, his life, sadly, was cut short — but his legacy lives on.

Since the 11 March disaster, Japan has reached out to the world to share its lessons so that other countries will not face the same devastation.  Japan is not alone.  Thailand, Indonesia, the Netherlands, the United States and Mozambique have all dealt effectively with water-related disasters.  They have invaluable experiences with prevention, forecasting, response, recovery and reconstruction.

My five-year agenda for the United Nations includes supporting national disaster risk reduction plans.  Preparing for the worst can save lives.  That is why we need early warning systems, disaster education and resilient structures.  We have an invaluable tool in the Hyogo Framework for Action.  It outlines measures to reduce economic devastation, environmental cost and human suffering.

While we work for prevention and mitigation, we must also address the fundamental threat of climate change.  I continue to call on world leaders to keep their promise to reach a global, legally binding climate change agreement by 2015.  We have to move beyond addressing the damage to investing in a low-carbon, low-emissions future.  My Sustainable Energy for All initiative aims to help achieve cleaner, more accessible and more efficient energy around the world.

This is the International Year of Water Cooperation.  Water is a human right.  It freely crosses national boundaries.  Countries have to work together to manage this basic resource.

The Year is also an opportunity to forge international partnerships that reduce the risks and impacts of water-related disasters.  This session can be part of that process, and our broader push for sustainable development.

The results of your work will be shared with the Fourth Meeting of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva in May.  And your deliberations can be part of our discussions on the global post-2015 development agenda.

I count on you to make the most of this day, and to continue your work as an essential part of our global efforts to shape a better future for all.


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Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters


Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters

Venue: ECOSOC Chamber, United Nations, New York
Date: March 6th, 2013


Concept Note

Water is life. But water is also a threat to life. During the past decade, water-related disasters have not only struck more frequently but have also been more severe, hampering sustainable development by causing political, social, and economic shocks in many countries. Disaster risk levels are driven by factors such as climate variability, poverty, poor land-use planning and management, as well as ecosystem degradation, and are increasing as more people and assets locate in areas of high risk. For example, over the past 30 years, the proportion of people living in flood-prone river basins increased by 114 percent and on cyclone-exposed coastlines by 192 percent. 1
While the mortality risk associated with major weather-related hazards is now declining globally2 , the economic loss risk associated with floods and tropical cyclones is increasing in all regions 3. While disasters affect all, the poor suffer the most. Low income countries, including the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), have less capacity to absorb and recover from economic losses caused by disasters due to their social and economic situations.
Global changes including climate change, increased population pressure, declining ecosystems, and unplanned urbanization are drastically increasing the risks of water-related disasters. Green growth will not materialize without adequately addressing water-related disasters. As highlighted during the current discourse in the Rio+20 process, integrated approaches to water resource management are critical for building the social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainable development.
Having these in mind, the Special Session on Water and Disasters, an initiative of Secretary-General, will be held at the United Nations to raise awareness, share experiences and good practices, and discuss ways forward towards global actions on water and disasters.

*1: Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, UNISDR, 2011
*2: In most of the world, the risk of being killed by a tropical cyclone or a major river flood is lower today than it was in the 1990, Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, UNISDR, 2011
*3: Since 1980, economic loss risk related to tropical cyclones has increased by 262 percent in high-income countries, and by 155 percent in low-income countries

Draft Agenda

Venue: ECOSOC Chamber, United Nations, New York
Date: March 6th, 2013
Organizers: UN Secretary-General, The United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), High Level Expert Panel on Water and Disasters (HLEP/UNSGAB)
Invitees: Experts on water and disasters, experts and interested members of UN missions and international organizations, HLEP/UNSGAB members and partners, members of civil society and private sectors, and others

Part I: Opening Session with Special Lecture on Water and Disasters (9:30-10:45)

Chair: Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General (Co-chair: Dr. Han Seung-soo, Founding Chair of HLEP/UNSGAB)

  • Opening      Address by Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General
  • Congratulatory      Address by Mr. Vuk Jeremić, the President of the United Nations General      Assembly
  • Keynote      Address by HIH Crown Prince of Japan, Honorary President of UNSGAB
  • Keynote      Address by HRH Willem-Alexander, the Prince of Orange, the Netherlands,      Chair of UNSGAB
  • Closing      Address by Dr. Han Seung-soo, Founding Chair of HLEP/UNSGAB

Break (10:45-11:00)

Part II: High Level Session on Water and Disasters (11:00-18:00)

Chair: Dr. Han Seung-soo, Founding Chair of HLEP/UNSGAB

Morning Session (11:00 -13:00) Deliberations by high-level experts

  • H.E.      Mr. Kittiratt Na-Ranong, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand
  • H.E.      Dr Mohamed Bahaa El-Din, President of African Ministers’ Council on Water      (AMCOW), Minister of Water and Irrigation, Egypt
  • H.E.      Ms. Melanie Schultz van Haegen-Maas Geesteranus, Minister of      Infrastructure and the Environment, the Netherlands
  • H.E.      Mr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Head of Presidential Work Unit, Indonesia
  • Dr.      Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank (tbc)
  • Prof.      Dr. Peter Hoeppe Head of Geo Risks Research/Corporate Climate Centre,      Munich Re
  • Ms.      Honoka Miura High school student, Motoyoshi Hibiki High School, living in      Minami-Sanriku Town, a town affected by Great East Japan Earthquake

Lunch Break (13:00-15:00)

Panel Discussion 1 (15:00-16:30) “Experience and Lessons of Water and Disasters”

High Panellists: * represents Session Co-Chairs

Session Co-Chair: Mr. Michel, Jarraud*, Secretary-General of World Meteorological Organization (Chair, UN-Water)
Session Co-Chair: Ms. Irina Bokova*, Director General, UNESCO
Mr. Shigeru Kikukawa, Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure Transport and Tourism (MLIT), Japan
Mr. Thomas P. Bostick, Chief of US Army Corps of Engineers, U.S.A
Mr. Bai-mass Taal, Executive Secretary, AMCOW
Mr. Bindu N. Lohani, Vice President of Asian Development Bank (tbc)
Ms. Florika Fink-Hooijer Director, Strategy, Policy and International Co‐operation, DG Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, European Commission

Panel Discussion 2 (16:30-18:00) “Regional and Global Cooperation to Address Mega-Water-Disasters”

High Panellists: * represents Session Chairs

Session Chair: Ms. Margareta Wahlström*, Special Representative of Secretary-General, UN-ISDR
Ms Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary, Public Service International
Dr. Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, Chair, Global Water Partnership
Dr. Benedito Braga, President, the World Water Council
Representative (tbd), UN Global Compact
Dr. Hans Guttman, CEO of Mekong River Commission
Ms. Gretchen Kalonji, Assistant Director General, UNESCO

Closing Session (18:00-18:15)

  • Closing      Remarks by Mr. Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General
  • Wrap-up      by Dr. Han Seung-soo, Co-Chair

Expected outcomes

The Summary of Discussion of the day will be compiled. The Summary will contribute to not only future discussion of ECOSOC, Post Rio+20, Post-Hyogo and Post MDGs but also help establishing global and regional dialogue and cooperation process/mechanism to improve disaster prevention and preparedness by countries.

For further information, please contact:
Seiji Ito, Secretariat of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation
Tel: +1 212 963 8590, Fax: +1 212-963-4340

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Joint Statement: End water and sanitation inequalities in the future development agenda


The Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations, UNICEF, UN Women, WaterAid and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. New York, 21 February 2013.

[ Check against delivery]

Today, the Government of Finland, UNICEF, UN Women, WaterAid and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation call on the international community to place equality, human rights and sustainability as the foundation of the post-2015 development priorities.

The Millennium Development Goals have brought much needed attention to neglected issues, such as open defecation, maternal and child mortality, gender equality, and the need for sustainable access to water. The international community has learned from this process and must now aim higher.

On the eve of the consultations on the post-2015 development agenda, we believe that the world must achieve and build on the MDGs, but must also craft even more ambitious goals. The goals must create incentives for change – a change that will reach every single woman, man, boy and girl.

The future development agenda must aim at tackling the most persistent of all challenges: inequalities in access to essential services to realise people’s rights. Crucially, among these essential services, it must aim for every person to have equal access to water, sanitation and hygiene. Special attention should be given to women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by the lack of these services.

Progress must mean progress for all. We must have a world that is committed to ending the unnecessary suffering of billions of people who continue to live without sanitation or safe drinking water. We must have a world that recognizes and responds to the millions and millions who for too long have remained hidden within aggregate statistics that mask the reality of life without safe drinking-water and sanitation: children, women, people with disabilities and those living in remote areas and urban slums.

The post-2015 agenda must not move forward without clear objectives towards the elimination of discrimination and inequalities in access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

We urge the governments of the world to aim to deliver on this promise so that all people everywhere will have the future they deserve.


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Water and Climate Change


Below are some quotes from reknowned international organizations on Water and Climate Change to use as a reference:

There is evidence that the global climate is changing.
Source: World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP)

Water is the primary medium through which climate change impacts the earth’s ecosystem and people.
Climate change is the fundamental driver of change in the world’s water resources and adds additional stress through its effects on other externalities.
Source: WWAP

Collecting water is expected to become increasingly burdensome with global warming. More regions will experience water shortages, as rainfall becomes erratic, glaciers melt and seas rise. People living within 60 miles of a shoreline — a full third of the world’s population — will be hit especially hard, as they are most susceptible to increased salinity of coastal potable water sources.
As it takes more time to gather water and fuel, the available time for education or other economic and political activities decreases. Already, the majority of children worldwide who do not attend school are girls.
Source: UN Women

Water resource management impacts almost all aspects of the economy, in particular, health, food production and security, domestic water supply and sanitation, energy, industry and environmental sustainability.
Source: WWAP

Climate variability, water resource management and economic development are intricately linked. Vulnerability to natural disasters affecting the water supply hampers economic performance and undermines poverty reduction goals and achievement of the MDGs.
Source: WWAP

Climate change is predicted to have a whole range of impacts on water resources. Variation in temperature and rainfall may affect water availability, increase the frequency and severity of floods and droughts, and disrupt ecosystems that maintain water quality.
Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)


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