Knut Ostby: Address at the Launch of the Post Disaster Needs Assessment

17 Jun 2013

The Honorable Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as for Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management, Mr. Inia Seruiratu, The Permanent Secretary for Strategic Planning, Mr. Peter Wise, Distinguished guests and fellow colleagues.

I am honored for this opportunity to provide a short response in recognition of the launch of the first Post Disaster Needs Assessment by the Government of Fiji. The report which has been made possible through the joint efforts of Government of Fiji and Partners, most of whom are present in this room today, is significant in many ways. Firstly I understand that the PDNA process conducted in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Evan was the first such initiative conducted here in Fiji since it became an independent nation in 1970. Secondly, the report brought together a wide range of professionals from many sectors and this was made possible through the able leadership and overall coordination provided by the staff of the Ministry of Strategic Planning working together with the National Disaster Management Office.

Thirdly, the PDNA report attempts to consolidate recovery and reconstruction needs across a broad spectrum of economic and social sectors whilst integrating the cross cutting themes of gender and disaster risk management. To this end, the PDNA report is unique and illustrates the growing importance of disaster risk reduction in the national planning process.

As the Resident Coordinator of the UN System, I am pleased to note the involvement of a multitude of UN Agencies such as FAO, UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF, and UNOCHA in this exercise. I hope that the spirit of collaboration evidenced by the PDNA exercise will continue to be strengthened as, unfortunately, TC Evan is not the only and will not be the last major disaster to affect Fiji. In this regard, I am reminded of a slogan used in the awareness poster which says: “Disasters do happen, Are we prepared?” The PDNA process I hope will institutionalize disaster risk planning in the key sectors of the economy and ensure that Fiji as a nation is “prepared” at all times. Also advanced planning and preparation initiated during pre-disaster times helps in minimizing the negative impacts of resulting disaster. People therefore can return to living their normal lives and the country as a whole is on the recovery path in the quickest possible time. The PDNA has made a number of key recommendations in terms of institutionalizing disaster planning and I trust that most if not all, will be taken on board by the Government of Fiji.

I would also like to congratulate the authors of the PDNA report for their rigorous efforts to highlight the needs of the most poor and vulnerable in the communities affected by disasters. The resulting recovery and reconstruction needs highlighted by the PDNA are predominantly in the Western Division. Whilst hotel and commercial operators have relied on private insurance as means of “safety buffer”, most communities who rely on agriculture and subsistence farming for their primary source of income have been badly affected. Their dependence on government and other charitable organizations, significant as it is, has increased further in the months following TC Evan. Looking on the bright side, there is now evidence that families have moved into new homes replacing the former that suffered significant damages during the cyclone. For this, applause and credit is due to the Fiji Government, as well as to the bi-lateral and multi-lateral partners who have made concerted efforts to help affected communities in their times of need. I also hope that the goodwill, compassion and kind heartedness expressed in the months following TC Evan will be further improved as Fiji integrates the lessons learned from TC Evan and prepares for the future.

I am pleased to announce that UNDP - will soon be embarking on a project with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development to assist affected communities in the Western Division improve their livelihoods through emphasis on food security. This project, which builds on the lessons learned from the Cash for Work project implemented in Nadi and Rakiraki, will rely on expertise and skills from other partners. In this regard, I am pleased to note that we are discussing with SPC the supply of disaster resistant varieties of staple crops to be trialed in 35 pilot sites. UNDP will also collaborate with the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure that their capacity needs in terms of planning for disasters in the agriculture sector is addressed.

The importance of Disaster Risk Reduction and Planning is not only important to Fiji but to the Pacific Region as a whole. The tsunami in Solomon Islands and the typhoon in Palau are just some of the disasters that have affected the region in 2012. In this regard, I wish to note the upcoming meeting on the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction that will be opened by Ms. Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Disaster Risk Reduction. The meeting I believe will further drive the importance of Disaster Risk Planning into the national development processes. I am confident that more countries in the region will follow the lead of Fiji and Samoa in using the PDNA to better coordinate and plan for natural disasters. The PDNA I must add, is a significant achievement in its own right but on its own, it is only a collection of assessments and ideas designed to minimize the negative impacts of disaster. In this regard, I wish to call for concerted effort between all parties to ensure that substantive follow up activities as recommended by the PDNA is taken on board and implemented. A Post PDNA workshop that will be held tomorrow in this very room will attempt to further shed light into the collaboration required to implement the PDNA recommendations. I hope that this workshop will be another important step forward for rebuilding, and for preparedness.

Congratulations once again to the Government of Fiji, and

Vinaka vakalevu.