Rebeca Grynspan: "Innovation and Resilience in Corporate Response to Disaster”

Apr 4, 2013

Opening Remarks by Rebeca Grynspan
U.N. Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator
"Innovation and Resilience in Corporate Response to Disaster”
At UN Event organized by the Permanent Mission of Turkey and Turkcell
UN HQ, New York North Lawn Bldg, Room 6
4 April 2013, 11am

His Excellency H.E Y. Halit Cevik, Permanent Representative of Turkey,
Mr. Atila Celik, Director-General of Communications, Ministry of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications,
Mr. Omer Dincer, Former Minister of Education of Turkey,
The CEO of Turkcell, Mr. Süreyya Ciliv
Ms. Yildiz Gunay, General Manager of Turkish Education Foundation
Excellencies, Dignitaries, Colleagues from the private sector, NGOs and the media

Good Morning.

I extend a warm welcome and thank you all for joining this event to discuss “Innovation and Resilience in Corporate Responses to Disaster”. My sincere thanks go to Turkcell, the Turkish Education Foundation and the Government of Turkey for initiating and organizing the event as an opportunity to learn about the many ways development actors –private and public - are strengthening the resilience of their communities and countries -helping to prevent death and destruction increasingly affected by extreme weather and natural disaster.

We are all here, government officials, international civil servants, civil society and private sector leaders committed to explore how to apply good practice and explore new ways of working together - at home and across countries to advance human development.

Today, preventing and managing natural disasters is particularly central to this objective. Increasingly extreme and costly weather events, resulting from climate change, threaten the hard fought development gains of all our countries and all the progress that the MDGs have achieved for so many around the world. Preventing setbacks among the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries will require all of us to act and more attention around the world. Through public private partnerships and innovative business approaches, there is much scope – in particular - for businesses and companies to help prevent and respond to the disasters, build national resilience and advance sustainable development.

With this objective in mind, we at UNDP are very pleased to have recently signed a first of its kind Partnership and Framework Agreement with the Government of Turkey. Signed by the Foreign Minister Davutoglu and UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark in March 2011; the agreement spells a number of ways Turkey’s extensive development experience, knowledge, and expertise can be tapped to help advance human development in countries around the world. The newly established and now fully operational, joint Turkey-UNDP Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development is one of those ways. I had the pleasure of visiting the Center along with representatives from Microsoft, Vodafone, Coca Cola and Intel on March 2012.

The Global Centre seeks to facilitate innovation and mutual learning between countries and companies, to develop successful public private partnerships, and adopt inclusive and sustainable business models. In delivering on this mandate, there is much potential to expand the joint efforts of UNDP, the private sector, and the Government of Turkey. This is exemplified by the Turkcell experience and commitment to sustainable development considered here today.

As we heard from the former speakers, Turkcell in the aftermath of the Van earthquake in late 2011 was able to facilitate ICT access -thanks to its farsighted business continuity plan- enabling people that needed help to send SMS messages and request for help to rescue them. I understand Turkcell also subsequently raised and contributed funds to recovery efforts. There is no doubt that Turkcell’s actions - encouraged and enabled through public policy - saved people lives and livelihoods. I understand the Ministry of Education played a particularly important role in facilitating the enabling environment which motivated and supported local companies and organizations such as Turkcell and the Turkish Education Foundation (TEV) - also represented here today - to deploy technology solutions and help rebuild communities.

I am confident much can be done to learn from and build on this example. We at UNDP look forward to partnering with Turkcell to advance disaster prevention and sustainable development initiatives in the CIS region, and beyond, including in particular advancing access to essential technologies and ICT. Having access to functioning ICT and mobile technology during and in particular immediately following a disaster is vital. It enables citizens to connect with each other as well as with the authorities that can clarify and share critical information.

Applications of mobile technology and social media for crisis settings are rapidly being developed and used. Mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter, and other digital tools offer exciting potential for preventive and rapid action, allowing information to be shared quickly, and thus facilitating immediate responses.

Over the last decade, over 2 billion people have been affected by disasters and economic losses have been estimated to total US$ 960 billion. Only in the last 2 years, 700 natural disasters have been registered, affecting more than 450 million people. In 2011 alone, natural disasters caused a record US$ 380 billion in damage with nearly 30,000 fatalities.

The private sector has the expertise, organization, resources, and capacity to provide solutions for tackling many of these issues.

The private sector has also proved its pivotal role in fostering sustainable development – including, increasingly, by shifting its core business practices to sustainable and inclusive approaches -which advance the bottom line while growing jobs and expanding the services and products available to poor communities.

With just over 1,000 days left to the target date of the MDGs, there is a greater need for active engagement by the private sector in accelerating progress. At UNDP, we are engaging the private sector to bring about substantial changes in their core business activities, by developing business models for the promotion of inclusive market practices building on Corporate Social Responsibility and going even further. We support countries to use mobile technology to connect governments and their citizens, as well as citizens to each other - helping countries to warn citizens of impending floods, outbreaks of violence or other disasters, empower people to alert authorities to the same, and enable national crisis-related institutions to direct people away from danger and facilitate early recovery.

The use of mobile technology also goes beyond emergency response. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, UNDP was able to use mobile-payments, made through cellular phones, to provide US$500 in subsidies to over 1,000 families rebuilding homes. The mobile-money was only accepted at pre-vetted shops where engineers ensured quality by approving building materials. Participants were also required to attend training sessions on disaster risk reduction construction techniques. This experience led to a multi-stakeholder partnership, called “Better than Cash Alliance”, which includes UNDP, UNCDF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi, Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network, USAID, and Visa to name but a few – working together to expand mobile financial services to the roughly 2.5 billion people who lack access to formal financial services. The partnership supports efforts in Afghanistan, Colombia, Kenya, Peru, the Philippines, with others expected to join.

I am confident that today’s event will give us ample opportunity to learn from Turkcell’s experience and that of other countries and companies and UN agencies. I wish you a successful exchange and hope you will identify ideas that can be replicated elsewhere in the world.

I want to end by thanking once again the Government of Turkey for facilitating cooperation between UNDP and Turkcell and for this welcomed discussion on facilitating innovative public-private partnerships.

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