Can I start by acknowledging you, Deputy Prime Minister; to you, Dr Mizutori; can I also especially acknowledge Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa and all the people who have travelled from the Pacific for this conference.
And I am sure that we will see more of the Pacific as our 2020 Conference approaches.
In March, I was in Tonga discussing Australia’s ongoing assistance in the aftermath of Cyclone Gita, the most intense cyclone to hit Tonga since reliable records began.
And not far from the Kingdom of Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, is the very beautiful ’Eua Island.
In February, Cyclone Gita devastated both.
Fortunately, for the residents of ’Eua, the Governments of Australia and Tonga and the Asian Development Bank had invested in resilient renewable energy generation and distribution and overseen work to reinforce and disaster proof the power grid.
On Tongatapu, 80 per cent of the buildings went dark and only a couple of solar panels sustained damage.
In contrast, on the island struck by the same intense winds, less than 20 per cent of buildings lost their power and it was restored within a week using a pre-positioned solar panels.
This is a very big benefit for households, businesses, schools and health clinics.
Australia is committed to this kind of collaborative work to reduce the impacts of disasters and to reduce the risks.
Last month, Australia’s “Indo-Pacific Endeavour 18” fleet delivered emergency supplies for those affected by the volcanic ash that’s covering large parts of the island of Ambae in Vanuatu.
Two Australian specialists are assisting the Government of Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office.
No one knows better than the residents of Tonga and Vanuatu and other Pacific Island countries the personal tragedies and the cost of disasters.
No people in the world are more resilient than Pacific Islanders in the face of disaster.
Yet even they can benefit from a helping hand from neighbours and we are always pleased to reach out.
We know from our own history of fire and flood, of drought, that disaster is an opportunity to build character and to build community.
Our Foreign Policy White Paper refreshed our commitment to strengthening resilience to climate change and disasters, working with our neighbours and partners in our region.
And for the last several decades, the Asia-Pacific region has reported the greatest human and economic impacts from natural disasters of any region in the world.
And the Pacific is highly vulnerable: in 2017, the World Bank Risk Index ranked Pacific Island countries first, second and sixth most at risk and vulnerable to disasters.
Last September in Apia, in Samoa, our Prime Minister announced a $300 million package to strengthen resilience in the face of climate change and natural disasters in the Pacific.
And we strive for all of Australia’s overseas development assistance to integrate climate change and disaster considerations.
It is an important part of our partnerships across the Asia Pacific.
In the Pacific, every development project will benefit from specialised support in design and implementation.
Disaster resilience is a major priority for all levels of our Government.
Recently, we announced the establishment of a National Resilience Taskforce.
This Taskforce will lead nation-wide reforms to reduce the impact and financial burden of natural disasters on our Australian communities.
Our emergency management agencies have a central role, but we recognise that a disaster resilient community is one that works together to understand and to manage the risks that it confronts.
I am delighted to formally extend an invitation to you to the 2020 Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.
We are honoured to host this importance conference.
Can I thank the Government of Mongolia and the organisers of this conference for the excellent work you have done to support our work together in last few days, which we will build on in Australia.
You can expect our time together in 2020 to include discussion on assisting the vulnerable, resilient infrastructure, data, science and partnerships.
We will aim to better understand disaster risk, especially in small island developing states.
Their vulnerability is an early warning to the world of the impacts of climate change and worsening natural disasters.
Small populations and small economies require a regional approach and we will look at the excellent example of the Pacific’s Framework for Resilient Development.
We will showcase the work of Australia’s National Resilience Taskforce in understanding vulnerability based on geography, exposure to hazard, and social connectedness.
We will shine a spotlight on the Sendai Framework’s fourth priority — in particular, how to prepare for disaster resilience.
For example, that moment of maximum opportunity, when political will, public interest and funding all peak occurs immediately after the disaster strikes, amidst the mayhem and the shock.
We need to prepare for disciplines that can guide us when they’re most needed: the plans, the building codes, the analysis and the professional networks.
We need data on the costs of likely disasters, looking ahead years and even decades, so that we make the right early investments.
We also need to prepare the data that can save lives by informing risk-based decision making as disaster strikes.
We need to bring on board the best ecologists and technologists to help us live within nature in sustainable ways.
And finally, we need to build that vital local understanding and preparedness, so that when in those vital minutes, few minutes, when disaster strikes, everyone — old, young, abled, disabled — know what they have to do to go to safety.
Now, the international community has established a platform for all of this work, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sendai Framework are mutually reinforcing.
The Paris climate agreement provides a base for our collective work to minimise the impacts of climate change.
And we are mobilising communities, capital markets and governments to rise to the challenge.
We know we will be tested.
We have our plan, we have our declaration and I look forward to continuing our conversation in 2020 in Australia.
- Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7110
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555