Union Minister of Home Affairs Shri Kiren Rijiju, a UN designated Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Champion for the Asia Region, attended the First Asian Science and Technology Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction held at Bangkok in Thailand. Following is the full text of his address during the concluding session of the Conference today:“Dr. Yongyuth Yuthavong, Advisor to the President, Science and Technology Development Agency and former Deputy Prime Minister of the Royal Thai Government, dignitaries from Asian countries and international organizations, dear delegates, ladies and gentlemen! It gives me immense pleasure to be here with the distinguished gathering of policy makers and experts from various international and regional organizations in this First Asian Science and Technology Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction. With far-reaching advances in Science and Technology as well as International Cooperation, we have made remarkable progress in our responses to disasters. However, entering the 21st century, natural calamities have turned out to be much more extreme, with an exceptional increase in both frequency and scale and in its impact. This is evident in our constantly witnessing unforeseen catastrophes, notably the 2011 Tohuku Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, 2010 Haiti Earthquake, 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
History has shown us that although natural phenomena cannot be controlled, we do have capacities to mitigate their impact in terms of human and property losses if we have timely coordination, cooperation and mutual support. It is indeed a matter of great satisfaction that during the deliberation over past two days, the participating countries, institutions and organizations have very enthusiastically contributed towards the objectives laid down for this two-day conference. In the Conference, we have been able to address the critical aspects of the use of Science and Technology on Strengthening Disaster Risk Governance to Manage Disaster Risk and Enhancing Disaster Preparedness for Effective Response. Further, capacity enhancement for Disaster Risk Reduction and technologies & innovations for disaster response, discussed during the sessions, will go a long way in further improving the Disaster Management practices among the stakeholders and the member countries.
Considering the loss of lives and scale of damages which have occurred in the past, it has become essential to formulate concrete strategies to reduce vulnerability and losses arising from a possible disaster striking in any area including urban, semi-urban and rural areas. The solution lies in having an informed community and bringing in strict adoption and enforcement of hazard resistant design, techniques, especially the building codes for new construction. We need to have financial and insurance solution in place to financially protect the communities, critical infrastructure and development. We need to take rapid strides in the areas of application of Science & Technology, Early Warning Systems and capacity development. We also need to ensure concerted measures to use latest technology to provide timely and useful information at the community level.
The Sendai Framework calls for a shift from managing disasters to managing risks. This requires a more holistic approach to risks and a stronger focus on addressing the ongoing creation of new risk. We have to address disaster risks in our development practices to not only protect our development gains but also to prevent escalation of future risks. The quality of infrastructure we develop today will determine the level of risk tomorrow. In order to prevent new risks from being created, we need to act now with solid foundation of science, technology and innovation. The Framework has underlined the important role of Science & Technology in Disaster Risk Reduction by calling for: “Academia, scientific and research entities and networks to focus on the disaster risk factors and scenarios, including emerging disaster risks, in the medium and long term; increase research for regional, national and local application; support action by local communities and authorities; and support the interface between policy and science for decision-making”.
In the last decade, science, technology and research has progressed significantly on all fronts. Scientists and researchers have brought a deeper understanding of the hazards, vulnerabilities, disaster risks and their linkages to the development processes. However, we often hear of the challenges and gaps in translating this scientific information into evidence and science-based policy making. While political leadership and community partnerships are required for the successful implementation of effective, science-informed initiatives, the research community has a responsibility to formulate applicable methodologies and tools that respond to real-world challenges. Ensuring that research facilitates the shift and understanding from Disaster Management to Disaster Risk Management is key, while national and international partnerships and networks can ensure the dissemination and sharing of good practice and scientific findings. In the backdrop of the disaster risk profile of the Asian countries, the necessity to discuss specific aspects in multilateral coordination such as establishment of clear channels of communication for international assistance, creation of a database of Disaster Response capabilities for rapid deployment and pre-positioning of material to shorten response time etc., stands well established. The case studies and lessons learnt during the recent disasters highlight the need for further sharing our experience and expertise in the field of Disaster Management. Further, notwithstanding the efforts in the past, several gray areas have emerged during our deliberations which need to be further discussed in future events and fine-tuned for timely response in eventuality of disasters.
The role of corporate sector and financial institutions in the DRR and capacity building cannot be overstated. We look forward to continued support from the corporate sector, both at national and international level in this domain. As we conclude this event, we are now, collectively, in a better position to carry forward our mission of developing a comprehensive roadmap on Regional Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction for mutual benefit of Asian countries. We are not only looking at improving upon the institutional framework for Disaster Response and coordination in the region but are also looking forward to refining our strategy for training and capacity development for response preparedness leading to effective Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) strategies and implementation of issue based projects at regional levels. India is organizing the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) in New Delhi from 2-5 November, 2016. The application of Science and Technology for prevention of new risks would be one the feature events of the AMCDRR. The recommendations emerging from this conference would be helpful in discussions during AMCDRR 2016 and would also substantially shape the political commitments and convictions of the governments of Asian countries. I assure you that India has always been willing to contribute to international endeavors in the field of Disaster Risk Reduction, to reach out in times of need and distress and to learn from the experience of other nations. India has played an important role in global initiatives on Disaster Management and Risk Reduction with multidimensional initiatives and expertise. With these words I once again thank the Royal Thai Government and UNISDR for inviting me on this occasion and share my views.”