Kenya to effectively manage and reduce disasters, risks

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BY UHURU KENYATTA

I am honoured to have been invited to join in these deliberations at this Third Review Conference on Disasters and Risks Reduction. It is a pleasure, too, to join you in this beautiful city, and to have been welcomed with such hospitality. Arigato (Thank you in Japanese)

We in Kenya attach great importance to the effective management and reductions of disasters and risks.

We are particularly happy to be here in Japan; a country that has shown great resilience in the face of some of the worst disasters in recent times. Japan ably demonstrates that a nation can rise from such events stronger than ever before. I am confident this conference will afford us the opportunity to share experiences, to learn from best practices, and to be inspired by your example.

In the last few decades, we have seen a rise in levels of risk, due to climate change, poverty, and ecosystem degradation. All of us, I believe, have experiences to share about devastations caused by disasters. Our nations remain exposed to earth quakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts, floods and extreme temperatures among others.

These hazards have catastrophic consequences. Throughout the world, they have maimed, injured, displaced or killed millions. Investments worth billions have been destroyed; livelihoods have been shattered. Where resilience is low, poverty has crept back. And economies have been severely disrupted.

We know that a greater number of calamities occur due to natural causes. We cannot change their time, place, frequency or magnitude. But certainly, we can prepare and minimise their impacts. And because we can, I am here to show solidarity with you, and with the peoples of the world. I call for the scaling up of existing efforts, and actions at all levels to combat disasters and mitigate risks.

10 years ago, we adopted the Hyogo Framework for Action. We committed to the “substantial reduction of disaster losses, in lives and in the social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries”. The Framework has since been useful in creating global and regional mechanisms for greater cooperation and collaboration. It has also inspired new policies and strategies, while encouraging greater political awareness and momentum for disasters and risks reduction.

Now, these are important but insufficient achievements. There is room for us to do more. This is because disasters remain a major threat to our sustainable development. They have not only undermined gains made, but also reversed some. Where poverty is high and adaptive capabilities low, vulnerability and helplessness have remained stubbornly high. Women, children and persons with disabilities are at even greater risk.

Africa is a clear example in this case. Extreme weather events – such as droughts and floods – have become a leading challenge to sustainable development. In Kenya, and the Horn of Africa region, persistent droughts cause food insecurity, conflicts over dwindling water resources, and general economic instability. Climate change has further worsened the situation as it is one the primary drivers of the frequency and magnitude of such hazards.

I speak about these unwanted experiences in hope. Hope that together, we can reduce, and eventually end, all these worrisome trends. I am convinced that through our collective efforts, we can effectively combat disasters and cultivate resilience especially among the poor. We can reduce injuries, deaths, and damage to property. Our call is to support those affected to make them resilient.

I believe this is possible because available scientific information and knowledge on disasters and risks reduction is both reliable and advanced. However, our main challenge is mobilizing effective means of implementation. Our insufficient and unstable financing, the dearth of appropriate technologies and a lack of capacity remain the barriers to preparedness. This is particularly true of developing countries in particular African states, Small Island Developing States and the Least Developed Countries.

We need now to come together, and to close these implementation gaps. We have to scale up investments and strengthen relevant national institutions responsible for disaster preparedness and management. At the global level, we have to renew our political commitment and revitalise international cooperation and partnerships for disaster and risk reduction. We must also enhance international cooperation in information gathering, early warning, research and development.

As you are aware, this September, we will be adopting a new universal development agenda to be implemented in the succeeding years. The intergovernmental processes that will govern this agenda are on course. This is our opportunity to determine their shape. Kenya supports a set of global sustainable development goals (SDGs) that not only recognise disaster and risk reduction as important, but also emphasise resilience building as an integral part of sustainability.

Let me close by reiterating that disaster and risk management are vital in tackling poverty and inequalities, and in the protection of our environment. Going forward, the forthcoming international conferences on financing for development, the Post-2015 Summit as well as the Climate meeting must respectively agree on ambitious and practical steps for financing the SDGs, implementing the new agenda and tackling climate change.

Our successes in the fight against poverty will be crucial in managing disasters and reducing risks. We therefore join hands with you, to build a just, equitable, prosperous, stable and resilient world for the present and future generations. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the future we want.

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