Early Warning and Early Action Before Every Tsunami: Building partnerships and leveraging data to ensure no one is left behind
World Tsunami Awareness Day
November 4, 2022
Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be with you today to mark World Tsunami Awareness Day.
With COP 27 around the corner, we are reminded that we have no time to lose. This is the pinnacle of our global effort to chart humanity’s course beyond the climate crisis.
This is especially true for the coastal communities and island nations who are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise. This is an existential threat to them.
The last seven years have been the hottest ever recorded; disasters are projected to increase by 40 percent in this decade alone. We are rapidly approaching dangerous tipping points for human health and safety, ecosystems, property and infrastructure, and we urgently need solutions that will bring us back from the brink.
Some may argue that Tsunamis are caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, meteorite impacts and other underwater explosions, and not all causes are climate-related. But that’s exactly why robust and inclusive multi-hazard early warning systems and early action measures are vital.
We can’t entirely prevent disasters from occurring, but we can support countries to be better prepared from disasters of various causes.
It is shocking to hear that only half of the countries globally have reported being covered by multi-hazard early warning systems – underscoring that the call by the UN Secretary-General on Early Warning for All needs to be made a reality to further save lives, livelihoods and assets.
Early Warning Systems are a top adaptation priority in 88 percent of Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement submitted by Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.
Across Asia and the Pacific, including in countries such as the Cook Islands and Tuvalu, UNDP is supporting the establishment of early warning systems and modernising the capture, analysis, and distribution of climate and risk information – key pieces of the puzzle in building a more resilient, smart future for these small island developing states.
Through interconnected approaches that focus on forecasting and anticipation in planning and actions on prevention, response, and recovery, we’re doing more to help countries and communities understand the risks they face, and to better manage and reduce these risks.
And it is important to emphasize that more investments are needed throughout the early warning system value cycle, with emphasis on reaching the 'last mile.'
Since 2017, we have worked with the Government of Japan to implement a regional project to strengthen school preparedness for Tsunamis. Today, over 170,000 students, teachers, and school administrators from 380 schools in 24 Asia Pacific countries were trained in tsunami preparedness and participated in safe evacuation drills through this programme. During the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction this year in Bali, Indonesia, I personally participated in the drill conducted under this Project, and witnessed how the Early Warning system is directly made use to urge the school students and communities to evacuate.
I’m sure many of you would have also seen our Tsunami Story Book series, designed raise awareness by capturing young readers’ attention through inspiring stories and actionable information.
Today, we are launching the 4th story book, this time from Tonga featuring the story of Li’Oa, a driver at the National Emergency Management Office, who successfully evacuated people from the tsunami in January this year.
Awareness is a key element of early warning and early action. It can save lives and livelihoods, especially when it is linked to the multi-hazard early warning systems.
UNDP strongly believes that inclusive early warning systems, along with a complete understanding of risks, enables communities to anticipate better, take action earlier, and reduce the devastating impact of disasters. And for this, partnerships are key to the success. On this Tsunami World Tsunami Awareness Day, UNDP is proud to work with each of you to achieve that goal.