Speeches & Transcripts

Opening remarks by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim at G20 Joint Press Conference on Disaster Risk Management

November 4, 2012

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim G20 joint press conference on DRM Mexico City, Mexico


Joint Press Conference with Mexican Finance Minister José Antonio Meade and
OECD Secretary-General José Ángel Gurría at the G20 on Disaster Risk Management

DR. KIM: La gestión del riesgo de desastres  puede entenderse como un tema de vida o muerte, de desastre económico,  o de prevención, o de recuperación, todos sabemos que los pobres son los más afectados cuando algún desastre golpea. Por eso, quiero destacar la atención brindada a este tema por el gobierno de México.

[The disaster risk management can be understood as a matter of life and death, of economic disaster, or prevention, or recovery. We all know that the poor are the most affected when a disaster strikes. So, I want to highlight the attention given to this issue by the government of Mexico.]

In Washington, we experienced the force of Hurricane Sandy, and we saw the destruction that it caused in the Caribbean and all along the East Coast of the United States.  It's a powerful reminder that no country is immune from natural hazards.

This is part of a trend we've been witnessing for a decade, a relentless trend that has seen economic losses from disasters more than triple over the past three decades.

Looking at low- and middle-income countries, damage and losses are estimated at $1.2 trillion in the last 30 years, a third of all official development aid over that period.  Years of development efforts are often wiped out in days or even minutes.

Climate change is increasing the danger.  For example, today's once-in-twenty-years extreme temperatures are expected to occur annually by the end of the century, according to the intergovernmental panel on climate change.  The number of once-in-a-lifetime events have increased dramatically over the last decade.

As public investment in infrastructure will rise dramatically over the next decades in low- and middle-income countries, we're standing at a crossroads.  Will growing exposure dramatically increase risk or are we able to act firmly to reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience?

The decisions that we make today will determine our long-term resilience to natural hazards and be critical to people's well-being in the short and long term.

By making uninformed decisions, we create new risk in the course of development.  When we build in hazard-prone areas or fail to apply appropriate building standards, we put people and assets at risk.  Understanding the risk we face is the foundation of cost-effective prevention measures, but not all risks can be mitigated.

We must also strengthen countries' capacities to respond when disasters occur and ensure that the financial mechanisms are in place to finance response and recovery while protecting the budget.

The World Bank is working with many countries to help further risk financing strategy that is suitable to their needs.  I very much appreciate the attention that President Calderon, Secretary Meade, and Mexico have given this issue by enabling this discussion at the G-20.

The international community has a responsibility to document experiences and facilitate knowledge transfer.  But exchanging experience is not enough.  We have to help people in governments make decisions that will improve resilience far into the future.

I welcome the cooperation with the OECD on this topic.  I also want to stress the importance of taking the next step, which is to base this work on experience on the ground and good practice.  This will ensure that the methodology speaks to the needs of policymakers and help to implement risk reduction initiatives for the most vulnerable.  I'm confident that this will help countries better assess risks and strengthen financial resilience to crucial elements of a comprehensive disaster risk management strategy.

Last month, together with the government of Japan, the World Bank co-hosted the Sendai dialogue in the margins of our Annuals Meetings.  This discussion was an important step for making disaster risk management an integral part of all development and growth strategies.

I look forward to bringing this discussion together with the G-20.  Developed and developing countries will have to stand united to build resilience, and international donors have a key role to play.  Together we can turn these important political commitments into actions to save lives and protect development gains.

Thank you very much.