Preparedness for multiple shocks, particularly natural disasters and
economic crises, must be central to development planning in Asia and the
Pacific which confronts the growing threat of increasingly severe natural
calamities and economic crises, top disaster managers told countries from
the region gathered at a United Nations forum here this week.

Prominent natural disaster and economic crisis management experts from the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Indonesia, Pakistan and the
Philippines speaking at the Ministerial Roundtable on Building Resilience
to Natural Disasters and Major Economic Crises on the second day of the 69
th Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia
and the Pacific (ESCAP) agreed that resilience is based on preparation.

Addressing the twin crises, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of
the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP stressed: ?First and
foremost, governments must invest in prevention and preparedness?it is far
more effective and less costly than recovery efforts. This can be as
straightforward as updating building codes and retrofitting unsafe
buildings, or as far-reaching as coordinating regional monetary policies.?

On the economic side, ?Policymakers must balance short-term macroeconomic
stability with long-term development. In the midst of a crisis or disaster,
we can ill-afford to mechanically apply the conventional norms of
macroeconomic stabilization. We need an Asia-Pacific regional framework for
resilience,? she added.

The roundtable, webcast live, was guided by a new ESCAP study which finds
multiple shocks occurring with increased frequency and converging in new

?A clear conclusion is that risk reduction is now a development
imperative,? said Lt. Gen (Retired) Nadeem Ahmed, former Chairman, National
Disaster Management Authority, Pakistan who won praise for his coordination
of relief efforts following the devastating 2005 earthquake and 2010

Honorable ?Richard ?Gordon, ?Chairman and CEO of the Philippines Red Cross,
stressed ?the ?important ?role ?of local communities and local governments.
?People ?must ?always ?be part of the process of change. ?Empowering people
through their active involvement in local decision-making processes enables
them ?to ?take the lead in disaster mitigation,? he said. Reinforcing this,
he ?noted ?that ?in ?the ?Philippines, ??Disaster ?risk reduction laws also
empower local governments to spend money before a disaster strikes?.so that
communities can better predict, plan, prepare and practice for a disaster.?

The ?panelists ?also ?noted ?the ?important role of regional cooperation in
building resilience to natural disasters and economic crises.

Dr. ?Surin ?Pitsuwan, ?former ?Secretary-General ?of ASEAN, spoke about the
groundbreaking ?tripartite ?partnership ?between the Government of Myanmar,
ASEAN ?and ?the ?United ?Nations ?following ?Cyclone ?Nargis ?in ?2008. ?In
highlighting ?the ?role that regional cooperation played in opening Myanmar
to ?international ?humanitarian ?assistance, ?he ?noted: ??Every ?crisis ??
political, manmade or natural ? offers us an opportunity to grow, to mature
and ?to ?collaborate ?with ?each ?other. The regional approach is extremely
effective ?if you do it right, and the sum of all our separate efforts have
much more value through regional arrangements.?

Dr. ?William Sabander, Special Assistant of the President of Indonesia, who
was ?Director ?of ?the Indonesian Agency for Post-Tsunami Reconstruction of
Aceh and Nias following the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami recalled how
the ?worst ?natural ?disaster ?in ?Asia-Pacific ?increased ?the urgency for
setting ? up ? strong ? institutions ?on ?disaster ?management. ??Political
commitment to disaster reduction is critical. Disaster management should be
part of the development framework, policies, programmes and budget.?

The panel also discussed the role of government and international financial
institutions during economic and financial shocks.

Former ?Minister ?of ?Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr.
Rizal ?Ramli, ?spoke ?about ?Indonesia?s experience in developing long-term
solutions ?to the 1997 financial crisis that hit the region, and noted that
countries ?Must apply solutions that take into account political and social
realities on the ground.? ?He also added that, ?policy solutions must limit
the spread of shocks to the real economy and the poor, instead of trying to
fix ?everything at once. Countries must analyze the situation and prescribe
solutions based on their own unique situation.?

In his closing remarks, the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations,
Mr. Jan Eliasson, issued an urgent call to protect the poor and vulnerable
during natural disasters and economic crises. ?The poorest are the most
vulnerable during disasters, and we see that all over the world. We must
build back better so we are better prepared for the next time.? He added
that, ?We definitely need to make disaster risk reduction part of the
development paradigm and the post 2015 development agenda?and reach out to
the private sector, civil society, academia and the scientific world.?


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