68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Second Committee General Discussion - Item 19: Sustainable Development
Sub Item (c): International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

Statement by

His Excellency Major Gen. Shavendra Silva,
Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

Mr. Chairman,

My Delegation associates itself with the statement delivered by Fiji on behalf of the G-77 & China. I wish to summarize some of the key concerns of my delegation on Sub Item (c): International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

Mr. Chairman,

Despite the overall progress in the development of transportation, infrastructure, science and technology, today’s world is still not immune to natural catastrophes. In this backdrop, the essence of the sustainable development policies need to engage disaster risks reduction through proper environmental and infrastructural management, while addressing issues of climate change and human mobility.

Sri Lanka recognizes the need for adoption of a framework for disaster risk reduction, which plays a crucial role by strengthening human and environmental resilience to disasters. We also recognize the importance of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction held in Geneva in 2013.

Mr. Chairman,

The geographical location and the tropical climate of Sri Lanka, and its shifting weather patterns intensifies the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters, including floods, landslides, cyclones and droughts. The growing population and urbanization exacerbate the destruction caused by natural catastrophes. This is exemplified by the Asian Tsunami in 2004, which caused more than 30,000 deaths and paralyzed the country’s socio economic infrastructure network. This unpredictable disaster, however, created a space for Sri Lanka to learn from painful lessons and to strengthen its disaster risk reduction mechanisms as well as advocate for global action. 

The assessment of the implementation of “Roadmap for Disaster Risk Management Towards a Safer Sri Lanka”, which was developed by the Disaster Management Center (DMC) in collaboration with UNDP and other stakeholders in 2005, revealed that Sri Lanka has progressed well in mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction concepts.

1.    The Ministry of Disaster Management was established in 2005. It provides the overall leadership to Disaster Management Centre (DMC), National Building Research Organization, and Department of Meteorology and National Relief Services, and developed Comprehensive Disaster Management Plan: 2014-2018.
2.    The National Council for Disaster Management (NCDM) is chaired by His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka with representation of Cabinet Ministers who are in charge a wide range of subjects including environment, science and technology, education, defense, irrigation and coastal conservation.
3.    The DMC is responsible for the implementation of National Disaster Management Plan and direct and coordinates the implementation of National Emergency Operation Plan.
4.    The Ministry of Disaster Management has initiated actions to develop a Comprehensive Disaster Management Plan: 2014-2018.
5.    The Urban Development Authority (UDA) has agreed in principal to consider Disaster Risk Profiles in preparing Urban Development Plans while the Forest and Wildlife Departments have provisions to declare protected areas under their respective legislations.
6.    Under the auspices of the Ministry of Economic Development, the special development projects are aimed at poverty alleviation and rural upliftment.

Sri Lanka’s main public awareness campaigns include:

1.    The hazard maps which include tsunami, coastal erosion, tropical cyclones, lightning, landslides, flood inundation for few river basins are now available online.
2.    Training programmes for the government officers, civil and volunteer groups include a range of activities, including hazard mapping, planning and construction in disaster prone areas, emergency operation, and development of preparedness and response plans.
3.    Disaster management programs have been introduced to school curriculum. DMC with the assistance of the Ministry of Education and UNDP developed an additional reading material in local languages. National media institutions are key partners.
4.    26th of December, which is the day of 2004 Asian Tsunami, was declared as the National Safety Day to strengthen awareness.

Let me also outline our preparedness and early warning systems:

1.    There are seventy-seven (77) early warning towers covering the coastal areas, in addition to the country-wide Emergency Communication System connecting all coastal districts and the national emergency call center.
2.    Tsunami affected areas are given priority in the Preparedness and Response Plans. Plans are being drafted for different levels of government administration. Evacuation drills are conducted in all vulnerable villages in the coastal belt.
3.    HF/VHF radio communication systems cover all districts and operate successfully.
4.    Private sector Cellular Phone Operators in Sri Lanka have entered in to an agreement with DMC to disseminate early warning messages through their network.
5.    National Pandemic/Epidemic Preparedness Plan and the Health Disaster Management Plan are available for health hazards.

Under mitigation and prevention:

•    The Government has allocated Rs. 236 million for mitigation projects. In 2013, the capital investment for mitigation has increased to Rs. 324.5 million.
•    The National Building Research Organization has identified hazardous landslides for stabilization.
•    A JICA funded project assisted the Road Development Authority to develop guidelines to assess disaster risk of road construction project on a pilot basis.

Mr. Chairman,

Disaster risk reduction goes hand in hand with climate change. In this regard, the need to reach in to a global agreement on climate change and disaster risk reduction by incorporating them in the Post-2015 global development agenda remains crucial. The Hyogo Framework for Action will be the milestone in this regard and we believe that it will produce a long term, focused, forward–looking and action oriented document. The newly established High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development must also address this area effectively.

In conclusion, my delegation wishes to recall the Global Assessment Report of 2013, which states that the world can expect losses from disasters to double by 2030 if development investments fail to account for, and address, disaster risk. We strongly believe that it is imperative to increase investments to reduce risks and build resilience. Therefore, we urge all member states, the UN System and other relevant stakeholders to engage with their fullest commitment to enhance resilience and partnership development in disaster risk reduction.

I thank you Mr. Chairman.

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