Warning ‘Delay Not an Option’, Deputy Secretary-General Urges Science-Based Action, Governance Systems to Reduce Disaster Risk, at Launch of Global Assessment Report

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the launch of the United Nations Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2022 — “Our Work at Risk: Transforming Governance for a Resilient Future”, in New York today:

The report we launch today comes just weeks after the launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report on climate change and mitigation.

Both reports provide important opportunities to reflect on the major economic, human, environmental and social costs of inadequate disaster preparedness and risk reduction in the face of the changing climate. And both remind us that the science is clear. We are perilously close to tipping points that could lead to cascading and irreversible climate impacts with devastating consequences for people and planet.

In developing the Global Assessment Report we’re launching today, I want to thank the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and its Group of Friends for the detailed analytical work, but especially for the recommendations included in the report. Analysis must be followed by action, and this report provides a clear road map of what countries must do.

Disasters pose a major threat to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change. As a world, we are entering a new normal. Disasters are happening with increased occurrence and intensity. The last few years have provided a stark reminder of the impacts global disasters can have on our economies, our societies and on the most vulnerable people in our world. And these disasters are occurring against a backdrop of deep global instability and conflict.

The war in Ukraine is the latest example. It has led to the senseless loss of thousands of lives. The displacement of more than 10 million people — mainly women and children. The systematic destruction of essential infrastructure. And skyrocketing food, energy and fertilizer prices worldwide, along with disrupted global supply chains and the financial sector.

And this crisis hits at a time where the world is still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and grappling with a climate emergency — both of which have redefined what risk means in the twenty-first century.

Our goal, as captured in the Secretary-General’s report on Our Common Agenda, is a healthy planet where people thrive. Disasters can destroy decades of progress in minutes. Therefore, being better prepared and taking measures to reduce disaster risk must be at the heart of all sustainable development efforts.

The Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, launched by the Secretary-General last month, also aim at helping developed and developing countries to face the indirect impacts of the war in Ukraine. Its first brief found that 107 economies are severely exposed to at least one dimension of the shock.

Effective disaster preparedness and risk management provides an important safeguard for hard-won gains in sectors like health, education, water, sanitation and more. It also prevents new risks by ensuring development and economic growth are risk informed every step of the way.

Today, I want to highlight three key priorities for progress on disaster risk reduction. First, the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction reminds us we must measure what we value, recognizing the worth not only of economic prosperity, but also of people and the planet. Indeed, the Secretary‑General has initiated work to find additional measurements for well‑being, beyond gross domestic product (GDP), building on earlier efforts.

Second, the report calls on us to reconfigure governance systems to reduce risk and strengthen resilience. In an age of complex risks with cascading and multiplying impacts, we must break down siloed thinking, and adopt a whole‑of‑society approach. What happens to one happens to all. And as with all we do towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, we must put local communities and the people most affected by disasters at the heart of our planning and action, and factor in how humans make decisions about risks.

And third, decisions should be based on science and data, including indigenous and traditional knowledge that can add nuance and a deeper understanding to specific challenges. Innovations in systemic risk modelling also offer a promising mechanism to better anticipate and respond to risk.

We are halfway through the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. As we approach the midterm review of our progress next year, the 2022 Global Assessment Report offers valuable recommendations to tackle climate change and increase resilience.

There is no time to waste. The current uncertainties around our world must not be a barrier to action. Delay is not an option. We can no longer afford delaying investments in disaster risk reduction.

The systemic challenges of the twenty-first century require systemic thinking, coordination and response if we are to create a more sustainable, more resilient and more equitable future for all. With your help and continued commitment, I know we will get there. Thank you.