Thank you, Timothy [Wilcox].

I would like to thank the Mongolian Government for its leadership and hospitality in hosting this important Conference.

Can I also acknowledge the organisers of this event, the Gender Stakeholder Group and UNISDR, UN Women, IFRC, and our panellists, discussants and distinguished guests.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to the Thematic Event on Disaster Risk Reduction in Action, focusing on Gender and Inclusiveness. It is such a pleasure to be here with you.

The impact of disasters is not gender neutral. Sadly, we know that women and girls, as well as people with disabilities, bear the brunt of disasters.

Around 1 billion people around the world live with a disability. Many face significant barriers to their full inclusion in society. In times of crisis, people with disabilities are among the most marginalised. They face particular barriers in accessing life-saving relief and recovery support. In disasters and humanitarian emergencies, they are often the first to be left behind.

The promise of the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Sustainable Development Goals, is that we leave no one behind. To deliver fully effective and equitable development and humanitarian action, people with disabilities must be able to benefit from – and contribute to – disaster resilience efforts on an equal basis with all of us in society.

This is something to which the Australian Government is very committed.

In earthquakes, for example, women and people with a disability are more likely to be at home in houses, prone to collapse.

Women and girls are also less likely to learn to swim or climb trees, leaving them vulnerable in floods and tsunamis.

Disasters disrupt safety nets of families and communities, placing a greater burden of care on women. At the same time, this puts women in situations of greater risk of abuse and violence.

An estimated 7 out of every 10 women in crises are exposed to sexual and gender-based violence.

And women and girls face even higher risks if they happen to have a disability, come from a disadvantaged background or find themselves part of another marginalised group.

Emergencies are times of terrible suffering and vulnerability, but they are also the times when well-prepared and well-targeted interventions can have a profound effect.

For example, ahead of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, Australia had enabled the retrofitting of 169 schools to improve earthquake resilience.

All of these schools withstood the earthquake, and provided much needed shelter and community spaces in the aftermath.

Here in Mongolia, Australia is providing support through the Red Cross movement to help rural herder communities cope with Mongolia’s harsh winters. The construction of livestock shelters has contributed to an increase in livestock numbers and a corresponding improvement in the financial welfare of herder families.

Australia is committed to empowering women and people with disabilities to participate in prevention and preparedness for disasters.

In November of last year, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper.

The White Paper is grounded in our national foundations of freedom, equality, the rule of law and mutual respect.

It clearly affirms that gender equality and disability, are crosscutting priorities for Australia’s international engagement on human rights, development assistance and humanitarian action.

Australia’s disaster planning and humanitarian support to the region shines a light on the needs and underutilised capacities of women and other marginalised groups, like people with disabilities.

An example is Kazol Rekha, a 23-year-old Bangladeshi woman who lives in a flood-prone area.

I recently spoke at a breakfast function at Australia’s parliament house and saw Kazol’s story on a video. I felt very touched by it and would like to share it with you today.

After a spinal injury, Kazol’s husband left her and her support network turned away.

She says she had become a burden on her community.

With appropriate assistance, she procured a wheelchair, learnt to support herself through gardening and sewing, and now helps her community to prepare for floods.

She is responsible for maintaining a list of people in her community with disabilities who will get the help they need in the event of an evacuation.

She also educates the community on how to maintain hygiene and protect food supplies during a flood.

Instead of despair, they now have Kazol’s plan.

Her resilience and achievements speak for themselves.

Women, girls and people with disabilities have the fundamental right to contribute to the decisions that affect their lives and their communities.

They bring vital skills, resources and experience to building resilience and responding to disaster. Nevertheless, they continue to be underrepresented in positions of leadership, representation and influence.

We do not need to make decisions on their behalf, we need to consult them, need to trust them, need to respect them and need to empower them.

The Sendai Framework recognises that we all benefit from including the perspectives of people across genders, ages, abilities and cultural perspectives in preparing for the disasters that regularly strike our region.

The Sendai Framework emphasises the importance of collecting disaggregated data so we can better understand the unique diversity of each community at risk.

While ‘disaggregated data’ sounds dry and technical, this knowledge can save lives in an emergency and help reduce the impact of disasters.

As a region, we have already committed to ensuring that disaggregated data by sex, age and disability is included in national and local plans by 2020, which will allow us to make better decisions about disaster preparedness.

Of course, better data can help us tailor disaster resilience efforts to make it more effective. And it can provide the evidence we can use to advocate on behalf of the needs of our region.

To help realise the goals of the Sendai Framework in our region I want to highlight Australia’s $2 million support for the Gender Inequality of Risk pilot program in the Solomon Islands today.

Over the next three years, we will work with the Government of Solomon Islands, UN Women, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on this pilot program to help address the gender inequality of risks, and ensure no one is left behind.

And so, through this program, and it is one of our many programs, we hope to demonstrate that women’s leadership is an essential ingredient for effective disaster risk reduction.

Because we know that the more inclusive our approach, the stronger, the fairer and the more resilient will be our commitments.

So, we strongly encourage our partners and donor colleagues to consider an inclusive approach to disaster risk reduction.

The frameworks are there. I was just having a conversation with the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa. The frameworks are there, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We just have to get on with driving the car, driving the wheel, driving the engine.

We will hear at today’s session four case studies which will exactly look at that.

After the case studies today, we will show you a short video. It has been made by one of our partners, CBM Australia, and highlights exactly why inclusiveness is important.

Now, we know this work is not always easy. It is at times the most challenging around internationally for development. But we know that if we do overcome these challenges we will so many lives.

Now this afternoon we are going to have a very exciting discussion with the help of our moderator, Ms Ramona Miranda. Thank you Ramona. And case study presenters Ms Chandni Joshi, Mr Nguyen Thi Minh Huong and Ms Smriti Aryal, who will present the progress report.

Closing remarks

Just some observations. This session reinforced key messages that women and people with disabilities must be central to risk reduction strategies.

It has been a pleasure hearing from you about the level of commitment in our region towards inclusive disaster risk reduction.

I thank those contributors in today’s discussion, who have shared examples of work being done, in countries as diverse as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Nepal and Vietnam.

It is clear that governments, civil society and international NGOs need to do more to contribute our complementary perspectives and resources to benefit communities.

Thank you, I am you will have a very fruitful discussion.

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