UN Member States proposed doubling current levels of financing for water-related disaster risk reduction in the next five years, in discussions at a Special Thematic Session.
Other policy proposals call for giving greater attention to the role of science in providing guidance for action and connecting diverse actors, and taking an integrated approach to freshwater, oceans and disaster management.
20 July 2017: UN Member States proposed doubling current levels of financing for water-related disaster risk reduction in the next five years during discussions at a Special Thematic Session. Other policy proposals discussed would give greater attention to the role of science as a guide for action and a way to connect diverse actors, and take an integrated approach to freshwater, oceans and disaster management.
The proposals were made at the UN General Assembly’s Third Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters, titled ‘Adaptation to Climate Change, Boosting Financing and Investment, and Advancing Science and Technology’ (A/RES/71/222). The all-day session in New York, US, was organized by Han Seung Soo (Republic of Korea), Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Water, together with the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP).
In his opening address, Han highlighted the severe economic losses from water-related disasters. He noted that the adoption of the Sendai Framework for DRR, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change have resulted in a more comprehensive and integrated agenda for water and have created momentum for action. He highlighted the targets set out under SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation, and SDG target 11.5, which seeks to significantly reduce losses from disasters, including water-related ones. He also noted the High-Level Panel on Water (HLPW) action plan, which calls for action on water-related disasters.
Han stressed that while the need for financing has been recognized in many international agreements, including the Sendai Framework, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement, it has yet to materialize. He called for doubling global investment and financing in water-related DRR in next five years, including a doubling of investment by multilateral banks.
The meeting also discussed and proposed guidance on financing for management of water-related risks, the role of the scientific community, and the outcomes of the June 2017 UN Ocean Conference. Member States concurred with the call to double global investment and financing in water-related DRR.
Peter Thomson (Fiji), UN General Assembly President, highlighted the importance of the Special Session to the people of the Pacific, noting the damage wrought by tropical cyclones. He drew attention to recent water-related disasters around the world, including drought in Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, flooding and landslides in Sri Lanka, crop losses in southern Europe, and heavy rains in China. He supported the call for integrating freshwater with coastal zone and ocean management. He encouraged adequately financed, strategic partnerships, noting that “lazy capital” could be employed in bankable infrastructure and development projects.
One person every second is forced to leave their home because of a flood or a drought, said János Áder, President of Hungary.
János Áder, President of Hungary, delivered the keynote address. He pointed out that previous warnings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have already come to pass, including more frequent droughts and floods, deterioration in food production, and increased social conflict and migration. He cited many examples of economic and social losses caused by floods and drought, including the three-year drought in Syria, which he linked to the current civil war. He noted that soil degradation, caused by climate change impacts and the misuse of both land and water, has resulted in deteriorating conditions for food production, with 12 million hectares of land becoming unsuitable for farming every year. He also underscored the scale of global migration, stating that one person every second is forced to leave their home because of a flood or a drought, and that sea-level rise will add to this pressure.
Áder called for implementation of the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 50% every decade, and to permit not only sovereign States, but also cities and subnational entities, to join the Paris Agreement. He called for expanding the Agreement to cover maritime shipping, and to strengthen regulations on air traffic.
On institutional reform, he noted that the UN currently has 28 agencies dealing with water-related issues, and stated that “the time has come” to appoint a central organ to be responsible for water-related issues in the UN system. He also proposed creating: an intergovernmental forum for water-related coordination; a fund administered under the UN Secretary-General for rapid response on disasters; and creating the institutional and legal framework for transboundary basin cooperation. In closing, he presented an animation showing the world’s temperature increase since the 1850s and called for serious action on addressing the threat of climate change.
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius and Co-Chair of the HLPW, highlighted her country’s establishment of a national DRR and management center, which has shifted the focus to disaster risk management instead of disaster management, in line with the principles of the Sendai Framework. She noted the need for early warning through rapid dissemination of weather information and phenomena such as flash floods, through electronic media. Observing that the worst impacts of disasters are felt in countries that are least prepared, including Least Developed Countries (LDCs), she called for close cooperation among countries to share the necessary technology.
In the afternoon, delegates discussed science and technology in a session co-chaired by Gretchen Kalonji, Dean, Institute of Disaster Management and Reconstruction, Sichuan University, and Toshio Koike, Director, International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management (ICHARM), University of Tokyo.
Closing the Session, Han noted that the outcomes of the meeting would be distributed in a Chair’s Summary, which he anticipated would contribute to various initiatives under the International Decade of Water for Sustainable Development.