Magdy Martinez-Soliman: Statement at the launch of the Report on ‘Financing Sustainable Development: The Critical Role of Risk and Resilience’

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the last year alone we have seen the devastating effects of El Nino, an earthquake in Ecuador, record-breaking heat waves in India and Southeast Asia, the Zika virus in South America, floods across Europe and conflict stretching from Nigeria across the Sahel and to the heart of the Middle East.

The question I have for you is: what relevance is this to us today, here in New York, as we come together to launch the publication ‘Financing Sustainable Development: The Critical Role of Risk and Resilience’?

For us at UNDP, and for many of our partners, and increasingly many Member States, the answer is clear: shocks and stresses strain countries, communities and families, often beyond their limit, undermining or even simply destroying development, which, let us be frank, often means destroying both lives and livelihoods.

Yet at the same time, we should be really clear. These shocks that we talk of are not somehow ‘external’ to the way we live our lives, whether as a community or a country. They are, we are increasingly realizing, part and parcel of the very fabric of development. Development is not linear; it is a complex process that involves both progress and crisis. Drought and famine in West Africa, cyclones across South-East Asia, insecurity and migration, the collapse in oil prices; these are not somehow extraneous to development; they are part and parcel of it, and all countries have to ensure their development is informed by the risks such events pose. If we fail to understand this intimate relationship, and fail to adequately finance in light of this, we will not deliver on sustainable development.

It is worth reiterating: we, the international community cannot deliver sustainable development without articulating how shocks and stresses are part of that development. For this we need investments in risk, and resilience.

It is worth mentioning here that we have made considerable strides in the last few years in this area. Let me pick out just a few of the most obvious:

o First, in Sendai last year, the international community agreed a new global framework for disaster risk reduction (DRR), a framework that makes it very clear that development and risk reduction are intimately connected.

o Second, last December over 190 countries came together to strike a decisive deal on climate change. The Paris Agreement was historic in that it charted a new pathway toward keeping the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, with a special effort to stay below 1.5 degrees. Countries have begun to turn these aspirations into concrete action on the ground.

o Third, the Sustainable Development Goals have foregrounded risk and resilience throughout, as clear elements of at least six of the goals put forward, and featuring in several of the remaining 11.

o And finally, most recently, to this list we can add the World Humanitarian Summit. After significant evolution during its own consultation process, the WHS settled on a very strong focus on the need to tackle the drivers of humanitarian need: risk and vulnerability. And the chair’s summary of the summit has outlined the need to focus on issues of risk and resilience as the key way we finally will be able to tackle the rising demands on humanitarian financing.

It is important this progress has been made. Now we have to build on this and move forward. This is not only because we need to ensure investments in these issues are not wasted. It is also because both the severity and frequency of shocks appear to be rising. It cannot escape us all that global humanitarian aid, has for example, risen to record highs close to USD20 billion . Volatility has indeed become the new normal, and neither the international community, nor the countries in which we live, are necessarily prepared.

Which partly explains why we are here today. What role do risk and resilience play in the face of such volatility and increasing severity? As we consider the main findings and recommendations from this report, we see ever more clearly the need to invest in the reduction of risk and building of capacity (whether at a local or national level) to ensure that shocks and stresses are minimised, and, where they have great impact, turned to future advantage.

Yet, the evidence of our collective inability to prioritise investments in resilience is clear. Consider for a moment that, of the US$3 trillion spent on development aid over the last 2 decades, just US$13.5 billion has been spent on ensuring that development was protected from disasters caused by natural hazards. Many of the same countries that feature on yearly humanitarian appeals are the same countries that featured 10, sometimes 20 years ago. We have not seen enough investment in transition out of conflict or recovery from disaster. And we need to ask ourselves: how many investments are truly ‘priced for risk’? Are we in danger, for example, of seeing the US$6 trillion needed on infrastructure up to 2030 to achieve the SDGs, actually build up risk, rather than reduce it?

The focus now should be on the practical steps decision-makers can take to embed risk and resilience into development planning. Let me close by stressing the importance of translating this work into reality at the country level, where the issues and potential solutions outlined in this report should become part and parcel of the ways in which countries and communities invest in sustainable development. Without such investments, they risk failing to deliver development at all.

This is perhaps the greatest goal for us as we work to implement the SDGs and build a truly risk-informed future.

Source: United Nations Development Programme