Remarks by Mark Cutts OCHA Head of office at the Launch of the Myanmar Action Plan on Disaster Risk Reduction, 2017

Oct 9, 2017

A very good morning to you all. Mingalarbar.

It is a pleasure to be here for this important event, the launch ceremony of the 2017 Myanmar Action Plan on Disaster Risk Reduction. On behalf of the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Renata Lok Dessalien, I would like to congratulate the National Disaster Management Committee, chaired by the Vice President, His Excellency U Henry Van Thio, for guiding the development of this extremely important action plan. I would also to congratulate all those  ministries, departments and development partners – particularly UNDP – who have been working hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement to develop this plan. Special thanks also to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland for its generous support.

The Plan is comprehensive and action oriented. It addresses the underlying drivers of disaster risk in a systematic manner, and this should help to avoid unpredictable responses to each new disaster. The sub-title of the plan ‘Fostering resilient development through integrated action plan’ reflects the essence of the plan in terms of its ‘destination’ and ‘approach’.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
The action plan mentions ‘Fostering resilient development’ and I would like to stress that the resilient development is not an option but a necessity. Myanmar has embarked on an ambitious development trajectory,  aiming for an annual GDP growth rate of  7 to 9 per cent. It aims to become a middle-income country by 2030, and through this process it aims to lift millions of people out of poverty.  

At the same time, it is important to recall that a disaster can derail the country’s development trajectory in a matter of hours and days. The floods and landslides of 2015 and Cyclone Nargis of 2008 are stark reminders. The 2015 floods and landslides affected 12 out of 14 states and regions and led to damage and loss of 1.5 billion USD, which was 3.1 per cent of country’s GDP in 2014-15. The latest Myanmar Economic Monitor from December 2016 published by the World Bank identified the 2015 floods as one of the key reasons for reduction in the GDP growth rate from 7.3 % in 2015-16 to 6.5 % in 2016-17. Similarly, Cyclone Nargis led to the loss of about 140,000 lives and damage and loss of 4.1 billion USD in 2008, which was 21 per cent of the GDP of the previous year.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Myanmar ranks very high in terms of disaster risk in most of the global disaster risk studies, as the country is prone to multiple disaster risks including cyclones, floods, earthquakes and fire. Climate change is further aggravating the situation as studies have projected that in every region of Myanmar, the temperature is expected to rise by 1.30 to 1.70 C by the middle of this century.

Another key factor, which influences and will influence existing disaster risks, is the future development trajectory of Myanmar. We know that no development is risk neutral, as it tends to either reduce or increase disaster risk. For this reason,  resilient development is extremely important for Myanmar to protect lives, livelihoods and development gains. Also, it will help in ensuing the global competitiveness of Myanmar as a safe destination for investment. The action plan rightly identifies ‘Resilient Development’ as the destination for Myanmar.

The 2016 World Economic Forum Global Risks Report identified ‘failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation’ as the biggest risk for the years to come, ahead of other risks such as ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and ‘water crises’. Hence, ‘Sustainability’ is the mantra for future business development.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
The action plan also talks about having an integrated approach. If ‘resilient development’ is the destination, then the ‘integrated approach’ is the way to achieve this. The Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and the World Humanitarian Summit all call for integrated and coherent action.
The action plan has been drafted through a series of national and sub-national consultations bringing together diverse views and ground realties. This is important as the environment, climate change, disaster risk, social protection, financial inclusion and development are all inter-connected. Resources are better leveraged through an integrated and multi-stakeholder approach.  

While the Government maintains overall responsibility for reducing and mitigating the exposure to hazards, local communities, civil society and the private sector can also play crucial roles in disaster management. The private sector in Myanmar always plays an active role in disaster response and recovery, and a more coordinated approach in support of Government efforts will enhance the effectiveness of disaster risk reduction interventions. In this context, the establishment of the Myanmar Private Sector Network for Disaster Management supported by UNDP and OCHA will also contribute to the success of the action plan.
I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement for having steered the drafting of this action plan in such a consultative and transparent manner.

UNDP has been a partner in this process, providing support to the Relief and Resettlement Department by bringing in technical expertise on disaster resilience. It also provided a neutral platform for bringing together the voices of civil society organisations, the private sector, professional bodies and other development partners.

The action plan is forward looking, as it sets overall targets along with indicators for 2030, and it involves a phased approach for implementation. It has identified the particular needs of vulnerable groups such as women, people with disabilities, children and the aged, as they are inevitably the worst affected during disasters. It is all about ‘Leaving no one behind’.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

The clock is ticking. The long road to implementation of the action plan lies ahead. It is important that the same level of leadership and dynamism by the National Disaster Management Committee and line ministries continues during the implementation phase. It is our hope that implementation of the action plan will begin as soon as possible, especially the formation and activation of the Steering Committee and secretariat, as mentioned in the plan.  

Finally, I would like to reiterate the commitment of all United Nations Agencies, including UNDP, towards implementation of the action plan.

I would like to thank each one of you, who were part of this process or who will be part of this important process.


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