Press Release
November 25, 2010

Consultative Meeting for Asian Parliamentarians
Disaster Risk Reduction: An Instrument for Achieving the
Millennium Development Goals

25-27 November 2010, Makati Shangri-la Hotel, Makati City, Philippines
Opening Remarks
Hon. Senator Loren Legarda Chair of Foreign Relations and
Climate Change Committees of the Philippine Senate
UNISDR Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction in Asia and Pacific

It is indeed with great pleasure that I welcome you to this important meeting of Asian parliamentarians which we auspiciously convene here today for the second time in two years.

In convening this meeting, I am particularly pleased and grateful for the presence of Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto Romulo, Madame Margareta Wahlström, the United Nations Secretary General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, and Mr. Shiv Khare, Executive Director of the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians for Population and Development.

I am also pleased to welcome the distinguished parliamentarians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines, Pakistan, Thailand, Laos, and South Korea.

As host, I wish to express also my appreciation to the other parliamentarians who sincerely wanted to join us in this meeting but were inhibited by some pressing national concerns.

Your excellencies, before our Secretary of Foreign Affairs finally opens this important meeting, allow me as the chair of the Philippine Senate committees on foreign relations and climate change and as UNISDR regional champion for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation for Asia Pacific, to briefly share with you the context in which we assemble here today.

Through many decades, the complexity of the development problems in our world has been widely examined for insights into better approaches and solutions. Yet, the problems have persisted and the tasks for well-intentioned development leaders have become more daunting as ever.

Our world is wrought with danger. Disasters abound and are getting bigger, deadlier and worse. Our cities are burgeoning and climate change impacts are intensifying along with disaster risks.

If there is one development issue that cuts across all these development concerns, it is disaster risk reduction. Resolving this development issue is today's most daunting task for all sectors. For inequitable economic growth, population pressures and extreme climate events have connived to increase disaster risks in our midst. Poor urban governance, ecosystems decline and vulnerable rural livelihoods have also become principal sources of risk, driving disaster vulnerability and poverty, the reduction of which is foremost among our Millennium Development Goals.

Our region, Asia, is the world's most disaster prone region. If we let disasters continue to exact its toll on the lives and livelihoods of the people we are mandated to lead and represent, and let their impact on our society and economy linger, our sustainable development goals, particularly our MDGs, become all the more elusive.

As political leaders, we play a critical role and assume a moral responsibility in arresting this chronic development problem. A conscientious parliamentarian would not want to see the poor and most vulnerable constantly drawn back into abject poverty for lack of government investments in disaster and climate risk reduction. A responsible politician would not want the government to waste millions on building schools that may suddenly collapse on children during an earthquake.

As lawmakers, we have the mandate to introduce change and to ensure that it happens. We can create the enabling policy environment for effective disaster risk reduction. We can urge our respective governments to develop risk reduction strategies supportive of national development agenda. We can also lay the foundation for increased investment in risk reduction in order to safeguard development gains.

Just before this meeting, I met with my UNISDR colleagues to assess the impact of the first mini-global parliamentarian meeting that I co-chaired here in Manila in 2008. And I must admit that I am truly impressed by our parliamentarians' commitment and sustained effort in promoting disaster risk reduction.

In 2009, in response to the Manila Call for Action of Parliamentarians, similar consultative parliamentary meetings were held in Africa, Latin America, and Europe, with UNISDR's support. Several regional and international parliamentary forums and parliaments also heeded the Manila Call for Action and held meetings that advocated for the synergy between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. These included the Pan-African Parliament in South Africa, the World Bank Parliamentarian Network Annual Conference in Paris, and the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians for Population and Development in Hanoi. The outcomes of these meetings advanced disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation altogether, and were reported at the high level segments of the COP 15 climate change conference in Copenhagen by parliamentarian delegates, myself included.

This year, we witnessed several parliamentary networks and assemblies from all regions of the world take on the agenda and advocacy for disaster risk reduction as an instrument for achieving the MDGs. Among the laudable accomplishments also this year are:

Firstly, the development and publication of the "Advocacy Kits for Parliamentarians". Thanks to the help of the parliamentary conference held in Senegal and to our UNISDR colleague, Dr. Feng Min Kan for her effective coordination of the initiative; and

Secondly, the passage by the Inter-Parliamentary Union of two resolutions urging governments to support DRR actions at various levels. Thanks to our parliamentarian colleague Saumura Tioulong of Cambodia, for her persuasive leadership in the IPU.

Based on this progress, we have all the reasons to believe that parliamentarians can really make a difference.

Today, we meet again, here, in the same city, and in the same venue --- where the first Call for Action was sounded --- mindful of what has been accomplished by parliamentarians since the Call was made two years ago.

With focus on Asia, we ought to discuss in this meeting how we could sustain our gains and step up our initiatives on reducing disaster risks towards more sustainable socio-economic development in the region. We also ought to discuss what remains for governments to do, and how parliamentarians can make the needed change happen.

Our mission of reducing disaster risks should transcend political boundaries and our calls for action should echo through the challenging times ahead. Our vision of improved socio-economic standards and quality of living for our people compels us to constantly renew our commitment to responsible and effective political leadership, governance, and public service and to work towards a more sustainable world and more resilient human societies for many generations to come.

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