"Twelve months after the rain: Lessons Learned, Looking Ahead", speech by RBEC Director Cihan Sultanoglu

May 12, 2015

Cihan Sultanoglu, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth States. Photo: UNDP

Dear Minister, your excellences, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my honour to welcome you all today in the UN House, together with all our partners and our co-organizer the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the conference “Twelve months after the rain: Lessons Learned, Looking Ahead”.

Today, one year after we witnessed the power of devastating floods in the region in May last year, we have an opportunity to ask ourselves what we learnt from it and what needs to be done. What we did well and what we could have and should have done better. How did we respond to the floods? How well are we recovering? Are our development and recovery investments safer today? And while doing this, let us not forget that Bosnia and Herzegovina suffers from multi-hazard threats of forest fires, potential industrial disasters, epidemics, earthquakes, droughts, landslides, floods and snowfalls almost every year.

Before the May 2014 floods, the average annual economic losses resulting from disasters reached about one per cent of the country’s GDP. A large proportion of these losses could have been prevented. Unfortunately, Bosnia and Herzegovina is still facing many challenges, including financial and economical ones. That is why this country cannot afford the luxury of disaster losses and has to learn how to better protect itself. 

Generations to come will need these lessons more than ever as all scientific data indicate the increasing negative effects of climate change in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region, which will result in more extreme weather events such as the rainfalls in 2014.

For years United Nations are responding to similar consequences caused by disasters in different parts of the world and I can say that Bosnia and Herzegovina is not faced with an easy task. Each State has the primary responsibility to reduce disaster risk, by its own efforts and through regional and international cooperation. Strong political commitment and leadership is needed to achieve this.

Having a leading role and clear division of competencies, all levels of government in BiH have to cooperate among themselves and with other relevant stakeholders, including the International Community. Besides government institutions, response to disasters, recovery and prevention require engagement and partnership within the whole of society.

We witnessed great solidarity efforts among different groups during the response last year. This solidarity and joint efforts have to be continued while we are building resilience and coordination mechanisms. Private sector, civil society and scientific institutions have to be aware of the role they have and how through actions such as insurance, disaster-informed decision-making, awareness raising and knowledge sharing they can contribute to overall resilience of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This year is marked by important intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, climate change and disaster risk reduction, humanitarian review - all closely interrelated agendas that will shape our future. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 adopted this year in March in Japan, emphases this and urges states throughout the world, to invest into better and risk-informed development choices taking into account increase of extreme weather events as a result of climate change.

I am proud that UN agencies in BiH together with partners provided leadership, help and resources and coordinated different efforts to support the country in response to the floods last year. 

Today UN agencies in BiH are implementing over 80 million USD in flood recovery and resilience-building programmes. I want to use this opportunity to thank on behalf of the BIH citizens and the United Nations our partners, who have generously contributed to this effort: The European Union, the Government of Norway, USA, UK, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Romania, Slovakia and France as well as the governments of BIH at various levels, who have funded priority recovery needs and are helping those who are economically and socially most vulnerable.

As strong believers in preparedness and prevention, UN agencies and our international partners will continue to help Bosnia and Herzegovina to better prepare for emergency response and to reduce disaster risks.  We urge Bosnia and Herzegovina to utilize this assistance efficiently and to the greatest extent possible bearing in mind the lives it can save and material losses it can prevent.

Let me emphasize, that only coordinated action, with clear mandates and needs assessments scientifically informed can provide complete and sustainable results. I believe that we can start our work today and I encourage you to use today’s conference and participate in an honest discussion on lessons learned and way ahead.  

I wish us all a successful debate!
Thank you!

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