As prepared for delivery.
H.E. Ambassador Bessho,
H.E. President of the General Assembly,
I am pleased to be with you this evening at this reception in celebration of World Tsunami Awareness Day 2017. At the outset, I would like to take this opportunity to both thank the Government of Japan for their kind support to UNDP on tsunami preparedness, as well as to emphasize the importance of concrete, on-the-ground action to deliver on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Those of you who attended today’s panel discussion would have seen the video produced by UNDP, which showcased tsunami evacuation drills carried out across the Asia-Pacific region. The video you saw – which will also be showcased tonight - is just snapshot of a much larger initiative that spans 18 countries and has, thus far, helped assess tsunami risks; design emergency procedures and evacuation plans; carry out evacuation drills; and help strengthen awareness.
I am pleased to say that since the project began in July, tsunami evacuation drills have been carried out in 16 schools in Indonesia, the Maldives, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vietnam, benefiting more than 6,000 students, teachers and staff. MOUs have also been signed with hotels in Bali, Indonesia, allowing them to serve as evacuation points should the need arise. It is important to note that practical, life-saving measures such as these are at the heart of the Sendai Framework.
On a broader scale, and to complement the tsunami drills and awareness raising, UNDP has been working with our partners in Indonesia to design a tsunami risk database that will provide critical information to policy makers and practitioners, resulting in better, more resilient and risk-informed development. Similar measures are ongoing across countries in the region with the support of Tohoku University and Fujitsu Ltd., both of whom are key partners with UNDP on disaster risk reduction.
Of course, while we are pleased to see such significant results in the short time, I would be remiss if I did not point out that there are many, many more countries that are at risk of tsunamis. A key element in the Japan-UNDP project is therefore to build a strong communications campaign that helps raise awareness throughout the region and across the globe. In that regard, a strong communications campaign, led by our colleagues out of Bangkok and supported by UNISDR, has been ongoing. This has included blogs, op-eds, social media outreach and, of course, the videos I referred to.
UNDP very much appreciates our partnership with Japan on disaster risk reduction, as well as our history of collaboration with UNISDR, Fujitsu and Tohoku University, as well as with many others in this room.
Before closing, I would like to reiterate once again the importance of disaster risk reduction to development initiatives. The Sendai Framework – the first of the major 2015 frameworks to be released – is a roadmap to building resilience and to strengthening development against disasters. Initiatives such as the tsunami project, as well as others that emphasize real results that save lives and resources, are critical as we go forward.