Opening Remarks by UNDP Country Director Toily Kurbanov at the Training Workshop on Mass Events and Disaster Preparedness

Nov 18, 2014

Her Excellency, Dr. Daw Myat Myat Ohn Khin, Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, Excellency Mr. Daniel Zonshine, Ambassador of Israel, U Soe Aung, Director General, Relief and Resettlement Department, Distinguish Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;

A very good morning to you all. Mingalarbar.

It is a great honor for UNDP to address in this “Training workshop on Mass Event and Disaster Preparedness”. UNDP is very pleased to be the co-organizer of this event as it is the very first collaboration in disaster management between the Government of Israel and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement of Myanmar.

Today’s training workshop is intended to contribute the government of Myanmar’s effort in building the capacity of disaster preparedness.

As you all will agree, disaster preparedness saves lives and loss of livelihoods and properties. Let me pick up some examples on how disaster preparedness pays off.

In Bangladesh a category four cyclone made landfall south of Chittagong in 1991. 138,000 killed. The government of Bangladesh invested significantly in embankments and protective mangrove planting, early-warning, risk awareness and contingency planning as well as the construction of cyclone shelters. In 2008, a category five cyclone in 2008 struck the low-lying west, resulting in approximately 10,000 killed.

Another example of India: a category four cyclone struck the state of Odisha in 1999. Deaths were as high as 15,000. Odisha becomes the first state to have a dedicated disaster management agency. It builds cyclone shelters, evacuation routes and coastal embankments. It conducts contingency planning drills every year. In 2013, category five cyclone Phailin struck North-East India, only 38 deaths recorded.

In Myanmar case, in 2008 Cyclone Nargis at Category 3 claimed over 130,000 of lives. After that, Myanmar government as well as the communities recognized the urgent need on disaster risk reduction activities. Govt. has invested its effort in disaster preparedness and risk reduction through activating disaster management system, emergency coordination and preparedness measures, and improvement in early warning. A category four Cyclone Giri struck Rakhine in 2010, the death toll was only less than 100. Though the difference in death toll also depends on the other factors such as the topography of Rakhine and Delta, we acknowledge the improvement in disaster preparedness comparing Nargis. The government of Myanmar is taking one step after another for building disaster management capacity in the country.

Globally, there is some good news that mortality risk associated with major weather-related hazards is now declining, including in Asia, where most of the risk is concentrated. The 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction provides that the risk of being killed by a tropical cyclone or a major river flood is lower today than it was in 1990. This trend is particularly encouraging when compared to the rapid increase in population exposure to such hazards.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

In parallel to improvement in disaster preparedness in Myanmar, the people are encountering the increasing trend of disaster occurrences. The country is at risk of both natural and human-made disasters, ranging from small, medium to big disasters. To name a few, Tale earthquake in 2011, Shwe Bo earthquake in 2012, Pakokku flash flood in 2013, the recurrent floods in different regions, and the social conflicts in Rakhine, and some other parts of the country, bomb blast in Yangon during water festival in 2012. These highlight that, the government, the communities and the agencies working for disaster risk reduction have to keep momentum of their efforts in disaster preparedness.

Taking consideration of both natural and human-made disasters, Myanmar Disaster Management Law (2013) is enacted covering both the natural and the human-made disasters. The Disaster Management Mechanism and Emergency Response Mechanisms are also set up for both natural and human-made; Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement undertakes as the focal of disaster preparedness relating to natural hazards, while Ministry of Home Affairs is the focal for human-made disasters and emergency response. Nevertheless, in any kind of disaster, capacity building on disaster preparedness becomes increasingly important, along with the government’s efforts in disaster mitigation and prevention.
Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

We congratulate the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement for its long-experience of providing Disaster Management Courses in states and regions since 1977, as well as for taking up establishment of Disaster Management Training Centre. UNDP is the key partner agency of Ministry in building institutional and technical capacity on disaster management. With UNDP’s experience working over 180 countries, we also see our role as a knowledge broker, builder of capacities and facilitator of exchanges and working with stakeholders including Governments and non-state entities. We believe that learning from each other among the different countries is useful in catching up the knowledge, methodology, expertise and resources that are already available.

[UNDP is promoting South-South and triangular cooperation at the global, regional and country levels, offering viable opportunities for countries of the South in their individual and collective pursuit of sustained economic growth and sustainable development by working together to find solutions to common development challenges. Disaster risk management is one of our focus areas under South-South Cooperation.]

In this context of our support to developing countries, we are very pleased to host this knowledge exchange workshop between Myanmar and Israel.

The Israeli government, emergency organizations and communities have the relevant experience to confront disasters of different kinds. It would be an opportunity for Myanmar to learn the knowledge and practices of Israel through this Training Workshop on the mass event and disaster preparedness.

We also hope that this first joint effort will strengthen the collaboration between Israel and Myanmar on disaster management.

By taking this opportunity, I would like to thank the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, and the Israel Embassy for their collaboration, the Center for International Cooperation of the Foreign Ministry of Israel (MASHAV) for providing technical support and the participants from different departments and from the states/regions for your presence and participation in this workshop.

I wish all of you a very fruitful discussion and a successful workshop.

Thank you.

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