Speech by Under-Secretary of State Koukku-Ronde

Evaluation of Natural Disasters and Climate Change in Finnish Development Cooperation from the perspective of Poverty Reduction

Opening remarks of the Under-Secretary of State, Ritva Koukku-Ronde in the presentation of the results of the evaluation at Säätytalo in Helsinki, 3 December 2009.

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Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues,

It is a great pleasure for me to open this presentation and discussion of the results of the Evaluation of Natural Disasters and Climate Change in Finnish Development Cooperation from the Perspective of Poverty Reduction.

The topic of natural disasters and vulnerability is a very acute one. The discussion of this topic today is timely also from the point of view of the approaching United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this month.

The current Development Policy of Finland puts an emphasis on ecologically, economically and socially sustainable development. It addresses the threats to sustainable development, including climate change and the related phenomena. Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation, and Natural Disaster Risk Reduction and Preparedness are closely interlinked.

Practically every day, we hear news about natural hazards which have turned into natural disasters. The recent publication, “The Copenhagen Diagnosis”, prepared by the Climate Research Centre and the University of New South Wales, confirms that the frequency of extreme weather phenomena has increased during the last couple of decades and that this trend will continue. Today, there are few among scientist or laymen who would doubt this.

As stated in the International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction of the United Nations, “Natural hazards by themselves do not cause disasters; it is the combination of an exposed, vulnerable and ill-prepared population or community with a hazard event that results in a disaster”. Therefore, we should put our efforts on the mitigation of the impact of natural disasters, and on the strengthening of the preparedness of the societies, including the most vulnerable and the poor among them.

In this evaluation the dimension of preparedness is in focus, in particular, preparedness from the point of view of the poor and the vulnerable. The evaluation reviewed a whole range of Finland’s development cooperation policies, programmes and projects, mainly focusing on the period after the shift of the millennium. The Finnish development cooperation in the area of meteorology was used as one means of addressing the preparedness and risk reduction dimensions.

The field trips of the evaluation were organized to the Caribbean region and to Mozambique, in both of which Finnish meteorological cooperation has been implemented before and after the year 2000. The evaluation also tried to look at all the steps from early warning to the community action. A thorough document review and interviews complemented the field trip.

The disaster risk preparedness can be envisaged as a ladder, in which the early warning systems, whereto meteorological cooperation contributes, are at the top, and the communities´ response and preparedness are the lowermost steps. To function well, this ladder needs to be complete and the different steps need to connect.

In the terms of reference of this evaluation, a particular criterion of “connectedness” was introduced to underline the importance of communication. Connectedness was introduced also in terms of other sectors – an approach which may be called “proactive preparedness” – meaning that the evaluation looked at Finnish development policies and interventions in a number of other sectors, such as forestry, land use and water sector planning and management, agriculture and food security, and not the least, the NGO sector.

In the recent United Nations Global Assessment of Disaster Risk Reduction, by the name of “Risk and Poverty in Changing Climate”, considerable thought is devoted to the disaster risk – poverty nexus and the need for action at different levels. It can be said that all development interventions touch upon some dimension of vulnerability to natural disasters. - In the recently published Finnish development policy guidelines in forestry and water sectors, Disaster Risk Reduction and preparedness have been well recognized.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues,

Of the major results of the evaluation being discussed today, I wish to mention briefly a couple of strategic level recommendations:

- A major message for the future is that Disaster Risk Reduction offers combined benefits in preparing and enabling communities to face the threats of Climate Change. Thus, the Disaster Risk Reduction in development cooperation needs to be kept closely connected to the actions related to Climate Change Adaptation.

- Finland’s support to a number of UN agencies, such as FAO, UNICEF, WFP, WHO and WMO have been and are important contributions to Disaster Risk Reduction and mitigation of vulnerability.

- Finland´s contribution towards building Early Warning Capacities is well recognized and represents clear comparative advantage of Finland. Connection to community level development may bring about tangible benefits to sustainable development of societies.

- The importance of NGOs in Disaster Risk Reduction should be recognized and the Disaster Risk Reduction concept be introduced into Finland’s policies concerning NGOS.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues,

Let me now introduce the evaluation team of Ramboll-Finnconsult. It combines international senior expertise and Finnish expertise.

• Dr. Srinivasan, the Team Leader, from the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre is here today,
• Ms. Teija Lehtonen, Team Member and Managing Director of Ramboll-Finnconsult Ltd, is also here today
• Mr. Subbiah, a senior expert on Disaster Risk Reduction from the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, not present today
• Mr. Alex Munive, from Ramboll-Finnconsult Ltd, who is here today as well.

In addition, there were locally recruited experts to complement the team.

After the presentation, there will be short pre-prepared commentaries: the first one by the Director General of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Dr. Petteri Taalas, second one by the Secretary General of International Affairs of the Finnish Red Cross, Ms. Kristiina Kumpula, and the third one by the Special Advisor in Forestry sector of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jussi Viitanen. General discussion will follow.

May I now invite the evaluation team to do the presentation. Dr. Srinivasan, you have the floor, please.

Thank you.