Opening Statement at the Second Session of the Governing Council of APDIM

Delivered at the Second Session of the Governing Council of the Asian and Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management (APDIM) in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Excellencies,
Distinguished representatives,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the second session of the Governing Council of APDIM.

Let me begin by conveying my appreciation to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its generous support and unwavering commitment over many years. This culminates today in the signing ceremony of the Host Country Agreement between ESCAP and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran that establishes APDIM in Teheran.

On this memorable occasion, I would also like to take the opportunity to thank each one of you present today for agreeing to serve on the Council. Your knowledge and experience have guided the direction and priorities of this unique program. Through this partnership, we will continue to position APDIM as the regional knowledge hub that promotes South-South cooperation in capacity building and information sharing on innovative applications for risk informed development.

Excellencies,

APDIM's evolving programme of work is central to attaining the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and its broader objective of leaving no-one behind. Three broad considerations should help shape its work.

First, the gap between risk and resilience is increasing rapidly in some countries.
Asia and the Pacific, the world's most disaster-prone region, has witnessed more than 2 million lives lost with economic damages of approximately $1.3 trillion between 1970 and 2016. South, South West, North and Central Asia, report extremely high disaster mortality rates with 70 per cent of the deaths emanating from earthquakes alone. These alarming numbers show that any development in these regions must be risk sensitive.

Second, disaster losses, both in lives and livelihoods, disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable. Over half the world's poor live in the Asia Pacific region- these households not only lose assets and income from disasters but are further weakened from losses to their well-being. Intergenerational poverty stemming from disaster impacts can be particularly difficult to break and these disproportionate impacts exacerbate existing inequalities. The report highlights that each disaster in the region leads to a 0.13-point increase in the Gini coefficient. To be truly sustainable, development must therefore consider the higher risks faced by its most vulnerable people.

Third, risks in the region are being exacerbated by deep uncertainties caused by climate change. Sand and dust storms, along with drought, land degradation, desertification and wind erosion are expanding in South-West Asia and present new and formidable challenges to sustainable development in this sub-region. These stresses combine to threaten the livelihoods of those least able to cope.

Distinguished representatives,

APDIM will work in partnership with well-recognized research centres, such as Iran's Building and Housing Research Centre, the International Institute of Seismology and Earthquake Engineering, the National Cartographic Centre and the National Centre for Combating Sand and Dust Storms, to expand expert networks. Through the South-South and regional cooperation modality APDIM will aim to bridge these gaps in information and knowledge to advance disaster management in the region.

Let me share with you a little more in detail the nature of APDIM's unique services:

One, a knowledge and information repository

Working with its partners, APDIM will establish a cloud based metadata platform to ensure that its services as the regional repository of multi-hazard risk information are equally available to all. The platform will pool data and information on disaster risk which is available in the public domain, and add value for 'actionable' risk-informed decision-making processes. Configuring this platform will be challenging but essential. We will give it the due attention needed.

Two, capacity development

We will build on the experience of ESCAP's other established regional institutes that have valuable practice in imparting training and knowledge sharing, following the South-South cooperation modality. A mix of approaches will be used, through both on-line and field-based off-line mechanisms. We will develop specific training modules that cover multi-hazard risks including seismic disasters, drought, sand and dust storms in the first phase of programme implementation, before moving onto other disasters such as floods in a second phase. Building understanding on what constitutes risk-informed investments, impact-based forecasting and early warning will be a key capacity-building objective of the Centre.

Three, information services for cross-border disasters.

Information on disaster risk is available in the public domain, with many tools providing free-for-use data and imagery. The challenges lie in contextualizing existing information using geo-referenced data and linking this to social and economic parameters. There are critical gaps at the regional level on preparing for the seismic risk that covers parts of South-West and Central Asia. APDIM will therefore aim to

  1. take up regional level seismic risk mapping to fill in the existing gaps in information;
  2. establish a sand and dust alert system based on transboundary risk assessments; and
  3. set up an Asia-Pacific Sand and Dust Storm Network.

I am pleased to note the outcomes of the expert consultation meetings have been successful in establishing a way forward on these issues.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This region is undergoing a significant paradigm shift with policy attention focused on disaster prevention and resilience. APDIM has a key role to play by promoting innovation-driven policy actions. Allow me once again to thank the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its invaluable and generous support without which we would have been unable to turn our collective vision for APDIM into reality.
I wish you successful deliberations.

Thank you.