H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of 75th session of the General Assembly delivers opening remarks at the 5th UN Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters
5th UN Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters.
Your Majesty, Your Highness,Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, Thank you for the opportunity to address the Fifth Thematic Session on Water and Disasters. The theme of this year's session, "Building Back Better towards a More Resilient and Sustainable Post-COVID-19 World", is most pertinent, as well as consistent, with the General Assembly's work on water related issues, in the 75th session. Amongst the many messages and calls to action, that we have heard, it is that the world cannot simply 'go back to normal', that 'normal' was not good enough, not for people nor planet. Colleagues, COVID-19 has been a 'shot across the bow', a warning that, we are more vulnerable to crises, than we would like. While we cannot change what has happened, we can affect how we move forward; we can choose to build back better, to imbue resilience into our every action, our every decision. While building back better is not a new concept, the sheer magnitude and reach of the COVID pandemic, raises the bar on what is possible. With the rare combination of incredible resource availability, coupled with vast public and political support, for transformational change, we have the opportunity to fundamentally alter our development trajectory, and to ensure recovery, reflects the principles of sustainability, equality, and resilience. For all of its tragedy, the global pandemic – and more importantly our response to it –, can be an historic turning point. Achieving this, however, requires that, we move quickly to leverage the trillions of dollars in resources, that are flowing into response and recovery, and that we turn our good intentions, and strong statements, into tangible, concrete actions. Colleagues, Our discussion today, is on water and disasters, and rightly so. While COVID has been global in reach, it is, we hope, a rarity. Much more common, however, are the water-related disasters, that impact millions of people each year. Over the past two decades, 3 in 4 natural disasters were water related, resulting in thousands of lives lost and billions in economic damage. Consider the communities in coastal regions, who are routinely hammered by increasingly frequent and severe storms and sea surges. Consider the cities and settlements, that have seen precipitation levels plummet, threatening their water security. And recall the images of entire regions devastated by tsunamis. The fact of the matter, is that water-related disasters, are quite common. While they are relatively localized, their frequency and indiscriminate reach, mean that we are all susceptible to their impacts. This is something we can address. As we funnel resources into recovery, into creating jobs, should this not include efforts, that strengthen disaster risk reduction, and climate adaptation? Can we not expand protective mangroves, build retaining walls, support emergency evacuation plans, and work with partners to improve disaster risk governance? Dear colleagues, This will not be the last crisis we will face, – whether viral, meteorological, or geological. That is the nature of our world, which is overburdened by population demands, and still struggling to reconcile its relationship with nature. Our only path forward, is one that acknowledges these threats, and works to reduce our vulnerability. Sustainable development, is risk-informed development. As we accelerate our efforts, to make up progress on the SDGs, during this Decade of Action, and as we target our efforts, towards COVID recovery, let us ensure that, we build resilience, into each and every action we take. Let us be guided by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Let us strengthen our systems, our institutions, our citizens knowledge, and our relationship with the natural world, to build back better… and safer. Thank you.