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APEC: Joint efforts to reduce disaster risks

Sunday, Nov 13, 2011

The public and private sectors signed a joint statement of intent at Apec to strengthen regional disaster risk reduction and resilience, following US Secretary of State's High-Level Policy Dialogue on Disaster Resiliency yesterday.

The Asia-Pacific Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilient Collaboration joint statement, which was signed by nine organisations at the Sheraton Waikiki, intends to use public private partnership as means to help save lives, ensure economic vitality, and enhance human well-being across the region.

The members also urged more organisations from Apec members to get on-board with their effort to reduce disaster risks and increase resilience in the the Asia-Pacific region.

MRC Greenwood, System President of the University of Hawaii (UH), said that UH has offered to host this initiative, and believed that with its strong connections (and location) throughout the region, will be able to make it as home of the initiative.

"In Japan, regardless of how prepared or how strong, the importance there is the ability to sustain and recover after a disaster," she said.

The US Agency for International Development's (USAID) Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg said that the initiative was important especially because of disasters happening more frequently in this densely populated world, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

"This won't eliminate disaster, but it helps continuous progress on how to address them," she said, adding, "We have also launched an online tool on how to map and respond to disasters."

Thomas Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce, said with the private sector on board, they bring along a unique capability and resource to the table.

He said that with a 24-7 news cycle, more disasters are being seen, so the greater question is whether more disasters are happening, and why.

Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, said that yesterday, she chaired two high-level policy dialogues on critical issues, disaster resilience and open governance, and held bi-lateral meetings with several countries including China, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

"We discussed a full range of issues from our economic partnerships to our security challenges to our shared humanitarian concerns.

In particular, I expressed solidarity with our ally and friend, Thailand, as it contends with the worse flooding in the nation's history," she said.

A release from Apec ministers and senior government officials on the High Level Policy Dialogue on Disaster Resiliency, said that bearing the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 in Japan; the wildfires, typhoons and tornadoes in the region; and recent floods in Thailand, is a reminder that the region is highly prone to impacts of natural disasters.

The statement added that Apec, through its strong networks in the business sector, has a comparative advantage in encouraging greater private sector participation in disaster preparedness and resiliency efforts.

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Comments - November 11, 2011


APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Disaster Resiliency

We, APEC ministers and senior government officials, along with private sector leaders, met in Honolulu, Hawaii for the High Level Policy Dialogue on Disaster Resiliency, under the chairmanship of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 along with additional earthquakes, floods, wildfires, typhoons and tornadoes among other events in the region, as well as the recent floods impacting Thailand, all remind us that the Asia-Pacific region is highly prone to the impacts of natural disasters. They also underscore the importance of reducing disaster risk and strengthening the resiliency of our communities. APEC, through its strong networks with the business sector, has a comparative advantage in encouraging greater private sector participation in disaster preparedness and resiliency efforts. With these challenges and strengths in mind, and recalling the commitments made under the Hyogo Framework for Action as well as the APEC Trade Recovery Guidelines, we call on officials to adopt and implement the following objectives:

Provide businesses with tools to help them prepare

• Promote voluntary standards for private sector preparedness to help businesses evaluate their own readiness and provide incentives for taking steps to prevent and mitigate the risks they face;
• Promote standards and indicators for measuring the effectiveness of disaster risk reduction at both the economy-wide and regional levels to guide public and private sector investments and improve quality and consistency in implementation;
• Promote and facilitate the use of Business Continuity Plans (BCPs), especially for SMEs, by appropriate means, including legal, market-oriented and social measures;
• Promote financial instruments that help to respond and recover from disasters, as well as to transfer risk;

Facilitate the movement of goods and services during disasters

• Recognize the importance of the supply chain and related infrastructure in the delivery of goods and services following a disaster;
• Work through APEC fora to enhance customs procedures, and reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers, including domestic regulations and licensing issues that affect logistics and supply chain movements responding to a natural disaster;
• Explore the use of customs and tariff waivers when host governments request humanitarian-related donations from the international community, taking into account existing guidelines and best practices;
• Educate the public, business and government leaders on best practices for effective and appropriate donations to minimize the disruptions unsolicited donations can have on disaster response efforts;
• Develop mechanisms for tracking private sector resources and capabilities;

Promote community based approaches

• Recognize that communities are the first responders in disasters, and solicit participation and input from civil society, private sector, and local government stakeholders;
• Promote early and frequent engagement of community groups and leaders in developing Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) processes and policies, and assist communities in identifying practical steps to improve community resilience;
• Encourage technical assistance, research of best practices, innovation and training for decision makers at all levels, taking into account community-based and gender-based DRR approaches and incorporating traditional, local, and scientific knowledge;
• Promote community-centered education on disaster risks and risk reduction through existing community groups;
• Provide early warning assistance through technical monitoring of incipient disasters and timely early warning dissemination through to the community-level, and build early warning capacities within economies to evaluate rapidly-evolving threats such as tsunamis;
• Encourage an enabling environment for community-centered DRR activities through local governance and economy-wide policy engagement;

Support research and education

• Promote increased disaster resiliency by sustaining and improving early warning systems through increased data exchange networks, improved forecasting skills and training, and reliable dissemination strategies;
• Emphasize the relationship of training, education, and outreach to decreasing community vulnerability to hazards;
• Actively engage and support scientific and technical communities to inform decision making;
• Support efforts to improve executive education to develop a new generation of disaster management leaders and promote interdisciplinary research as well as platforms for prototyping tools arising from that research;
• Recognize APEC’s efforts to make schools safer in response to seismic and tsunami threats; and
• Advocate for the inclusion of natural hazard disaster preparedness as part of school curricula starting in primary schools.

Promote public-private partnerships

Partnership between the public and private sectors is essential as the private sector owns and operates a great deal of an economy’s critical infrastructure and has experience and knowledge regarding resilient construction techniques, the development of sustainable urban areas, energy safety, and the protection of critical resources. Recognizing the need to incorporate the private sector more substantively in our emergency preparedness efforts, APEC economies will develop public-private partnerships within their own economies and report on their progress next year. In developing these partnerships, APEC economies will be guided by the following broad principles:

1. Adopt a “Whole of Society” approach to developing and strengthening public-private partnerships that support business and community resilience to disasters. This includes involving all levels of government, non-government, and the private sector;

2. Through public-private partnership programs, encourage a greater role for women in supporting disaster resilient businesses and communities;

3. Strengthen public-private partnerships by sharing information, drawing on best practices, and learning from experiences;

4. Leverage existing programs and resources, and strengthen partnerships that develop during disasters to sustain long-term public-private collaboration and avoid duplication of effort;

5. Establish partnerships based on shared responsibilities and resources, with mutually agreed upon roles and tasks;

6. Cultivate public private partnerships that are open to flexible and innovative ways of working together to build business and community resilience to disasters

APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Disaster Resiliency (2 page .PDF file)

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