2 December, 2008

Third Asian Ministerial conference on Disaster Risk Reduction


YBhg. Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Abd. Aziz
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department

Honourable Ministers

Mr. Salvano Briceno
Director of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

YBhg. Dato’ Muhammad Hatta Ab. Aziz
Secretary to the National Security Council, Malaysia

Excellencies

Distinguished Delegates

Ladies and gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Your Excellencies, distinguished delegates and Conference participants to Malaysia for the Third Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. Malaysia is indeed very honoured to be given the opportunity to host this important Conference.

2. The Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction has been entrusted with a significant task of ensuring that member countries remained committed towards the goals of the Hyogo Framework for Action in building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters. Although the Conference was only initiated in 2005 in Beijing, nevertheless, it has developed as a significant regional platform for disaster risk reduction. The Conference has also been successful in raising awareness on the importance of disaster risk reduction issues as well as enhanced cooperation among the regional countries. This effort is very commendable in view of its short span of time since its inception.

Distinguished Delegates,

3. Disaster risk is of global concern. With the increase vulnerabilities stemming from population growth, unplanned urbanization, environmental degradation, climate change combine with geological, hydro-meteorological and man-made hazards, has increased the frequency and the impact of the disaster itself. According to the United Nations Development Programme report, for the period from 2000 to 2004, an average of 326 climate disasters occurred per year, with more than 200 million people affected annually, of which most of them are in Asia.

4. As you are much aware, almost half of the disasters in the world occur in Asia, making this region the world most disaster prone area. In the last couple of years alone, we have experienced devastating earthquakes, major floods, numerous cyclones and droughts that affected many countries in the region.

5. From the economic perspective, natural disasters exert an enormous toll on development. Annual economic losses associated with such disasters has shown a tremendous increase averaging from USD 75.5 billion in the 1960s to USD 659.9 billion in the 1990s. The majority of these loses are concentrated in the developed world, as such, it fail to adequately capture the impact of the disaster on the poor who suffer the greatest cost in terms of lives and livelihood and rebuilding their shattered communities and infrastructure. Today, 85 percent of the people exposed to earth quakes, tropical cyclones, floods and droughts live in cities that are either medium or low in development.

6. I am mindful of the fact that this is a known knowledge to all of you. However, what I am alluding to is that disaster risk should be taken seriously in view of the severity of its impact to lives and livelihood as well as the development of the nation. It is acknowledged that not all disasters can be prevented, but their impact and all the underlying risks can be reduced. While recognizing that preparing for and coping with disasters is essential, nevertheless, such efforts have never been sufficient.

7. Till a few decades ago, disasters were viewed as one-off events and responded by the government and relief agencies without taking into account the socio-economic implications and causes of these disasters. Fortunately, the evolution of approach from relief and response to enhancing preparedness and mitigating the impact of disasters has began to influence the way disaster management programme are now being planned and financed. It is both tragic and futile to see benefit of years or decades of development washed away in a typhoon or flood, when marginal investment in incorporating hazard resistance could have protected these assets.

8. It is acknowledged that Governments cannot reduce the risk of disasters alone. Thus, other stakeholders, including international, regional and national organizations, UN agencies, scientific and technical organizations, civil society organizations as well as the media need to support and assist the government in ensuring the appropriate implementation plans towards building resilient communities. In this context, the theme and objectives of the Third Asian Ministerial Conference i.e. Multi-stakeholder Partnership for Disaster Risk Reduction from National to Local is most appropriate.

9. Disaster risk reduction should not be viewed as the sole responsibility of Government. Partnerships with all stakeholders are important. Public and private sector resources need to be mobilised towards activities aimed at disaster risk reduction. In the midst of global challenges, enhanced public-private-partnerships play an important role in raising awareness and advocacy, increase social investment and philanthropy activities, contribute to sustainable economic growth and income generation as well as promote capacity building and scientific research.

10. In every disaster it is the communities that are on the receiving end and those who suffer the most. It is realized that disaster management is most effective at the community level where local needs and risks can be adequately assessed and managed. Community based disaster management requires an enabling and supportive institutional framework which transcends from the national to state or provisional and local governments.

11. Disasters can be reduced substantially if people are well informed about measures they can take to reduce vulnerabilities. Communities in high risks areas thus need to be briefed and educated on disaster risks and means of protection. Such awareness will create a culture of safety and resilience among the communities.

12. We are well aware that risk management is not a standalone strategy but it needs to be consciously integrated into our planning and implementation of development. By changing our planning processes and incorporating disaster risk consideration in the planning of new development projects, we can make sure that the resilient community is capable of withstanding the impact of future hazards. In line with this, there may be a need to develop or modify policies, laws and organizational arrangements to integrate disaster risk reduction into plans, programmes and projects of development.

13. While regional governments are striving hard towards implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action in reducing disaster risk, donor nations should continue to support the disaster risk reduction agenda. Despite the current economic challenges we faced today, it is hope that donor countries commitment to fund and support developing nations in addressing disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation will continue. This will ensure that in the long run less will be required to respond to the predictable rise in disasters we may advertently face.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

14. Allow me now to share with you Malaysia’s experiences in our disaster management efforts. Unlike other countries in the region, we are truly blessed in that we are only assailed with disasters that are not catastrophic in nature. Nevertheless, we do experience our fair share of disaster such as the annual floods. Recognizing this problem the government has put in place since the 1990s, policy, infrastructure and operational mechanism that transcend from the national, state and district levels to ensure the cohesive participation and involvement of various government agencies and non-government sector in addressing disaster management. At the national level, I am entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the effectiveness of the disaster management mechanism that we have put in place.

15. The Government has also established the National Disaster Fund to provide financial assistance to those affected by the flood. The corporate sector too has responded positively by contributing an average of RM 20 million annually to the Fund. In addition, as a result of the widespread monsoon flood in 2006, the Government has acted promptly by allocating RM 500 million in the form of micro credits distributed through local commercial banks aimed at recovering businesses and rebuilding damaged infrastructure in the affected areas. Other effort undertaken by the governments include the establishment of a cooperative in the form of Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia. This provides financial assistance to its members affected by the flood.

16. In terms of capacity development, government-linked company such as Telekom Malaysia has developed a Business Continuity Management System consisting of crisis management, business continuity and disaster recovery plan for their critical networks and services. A Fixed-Line Disaster Alert System for the dissemination of disaster alert through the use of landline to the public has also been introduced.

17. To establish a sustainable and resilient environment for the local community, the government has encouraged the participation and involvement of non-governmental organizations in disaster risk reduction programmes. An organisation such as MERCY Malaysia has played a profound role in exploring a more proactive function in enhancing public awareness in disaster risk prevention, mitigation and preparedness.

18. Recognising the importance of scientific research, the Ministry of Higher Education has established the Southeast Asia Disaster Prevention Institute at the National University of Malaysia to address knowledge gaps and education as well as promote policy-relevant solutions to reduce underlying risk factors at all levels of planning. Science and innovation play an important role in ensuring vulnerabilities are not re-build and communities that are prone to disaster and risk are more resilient in their housing, community facilities and other build structures.

19. The Government of Malaysia is indeed committed to disaster risk reduction and will continue its efforts towards implementing the priority areas of the Hyogo Framework for Action. We will work closely with the private sector; our national institutions, academicians and non-governmental sector to ensure our vulnerabilities are clearly understood and addressed.

The Malaysian Government has approved the proposal by the Defence Ministry to undertake jointly with the World Food Programme to establish a Disaster Relief Centre at the Subang Airport. The relief centre will support all humanitarian and food assistance relief operations in the Asia Pacific region. The Government will contribute USD1 million to run the centre.

Distinguished Participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

20. The next 3 days will definitely pose a daunting task to all of you in your deliberations and commitment to come up with concrete action plan that can see Asia-Pacific emerging as a pro-active region, ready to face the challenges of climate change, disasters and find ways to reduce risks and adapt to these changes. I wish you all the very best and look forward to hearing the outcomes of the Conference. However, despite your busy schedule, I do hope you will be able to take time out to see our beautiful city and enjoy the Malaysian hospitality.

21. In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the Conference organizers in making this event a reality. I would also like to acknowledge all the supporting organizations at regional and national levels for their invaluable contribution to the Conference. I sincerely hope that the deliberations and exchange of experience on disaster risk reduction based on public-private-partnership and community participations is of benefit and be applicable to your countries to ensure sustainable development.

With this note, it is my pleasure to declare the Third Asian Ministerial conference on Disaster Risk Reduction officially open.

Thank you.

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