Statement of the Indian Ocean Commission by Pr. Vêlayoudom Marimoutou, General Secretary
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour for the Indian Ocean Commission to bring the voice of the African islands to the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction. I wish to express my warmest thanks to the Indonesian authorities for hosting and organizing this important international meeting with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Indian Ocean Commission is the only organisation in Africa composed exclusively of islands. Our Member States are Ocean-States inthe SouthwestIndian Ocean. But our island specificity means that on many issues, the Indian Ocean Commission has been able to carry the voice of all the islands of Africa.
Our voice is that of populations particularly exposed to disaster risks and with limited means and resources for mitigation, adaptation or intervention.
Yes, our Indian Ocean islands are vulnerable by nature. But they have chosen solidarity and action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
It is our responsibility at the Indian Ocean Commission to lead a diversified regional cooperation that focuses on the climate challenge, biodiversity loss and risk reduction. Nearly 10 years ago, together with the World Bank and the UNDRR, we estimated the risk of annual economic losses in our region at more than 160 million dollars! However, the climate challenge shows that the risks are much higher.
In 2019, Cyclone Kenneth severely affected more than 185,000 Comorians, causing six deaths, destroying more than 4,000 homes,and causing significant economic losses.
In recent months, Madagascar has been hit by six cyclones or tropical storms causing considerable human and material damage: more than 200 deaths, 462,000 people affected, thousands of hectaresdevastated,and social and economic infrastructure destroyed.
The list can be extended because the risks facing Indianoceania are much more numerous: torrential rains, heavy swells, floods, landslides, tsunamis, or even earthquakes and volcanic eruptions-we are in fact witnessing the emergence of a major systemic risk with the birth of an underwater volcano north of the Mozambique Channel!
These risks can turn into human, health,and economic disasters. Epidemics, food insecurity, and the cessation of economic activity are the corollaries of these climate risks.
So, our vulnerability is real. But I was saying that we have chosen solidarity and action.
With the support of its partners, the Indian Ocean Commission is implementing a series of structuringand complementary projectsto strengthen national resilience, prevention,and intervention capacities.
I am thinking of our IOC-EU “Building Resilience and Disaster Response Management”, which benefits from the effective involvement of key field-players such as the Red Cross Indian Ocean Regional Response Platform and the United Nations Office for Risk Reduction. I am also thinking of our Hydromet project supported by the European Union,AFD and the Green Climate Fund, which will significantly improve hydrometeorological forecasting capacities and develop climate services that are essential for risk-sensitive spatialplanning. These two projects, to which can be added climate simulation, coastal resilience,and public health projects, will make it possible to improve the technical capacities for prevention, forecasting and intervention.
The resilience of our island areas cannot be decreed. It is a building process. It requires cross-sectoral investments. It is a political responsibility of the first order. It must mobilise actors from all sides, public and private, institutional, scientific and citizens.
Investment is needed in technology and training for risk management, meteorology,andcivil protection personnel. Investmentis neededin critical infrastructure through climate-sensitive development plans. Investment is neededin financial protection against risks. Investment is neededin raising awareness among the population, which mustknow how to protect itself and participate in the collective safety effort, by installing in our consciousness a sustainable culture of risk and protection. And investment is neededin education because it is a weapon of massive construction, because it is for and with the younger generations that we must build more resilient territories, aware of the services provided by ecosystems and better prepared to face risks.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us one thing: that the world can choosehealth before the economy. What are we waiting for to make the vital choice of climate and biodiversity?
Investing in disaster risk reduction is a choice to invest in the future.
At the IOC, we have made and will continue to make this choice for the resilience of our islands. We call on the international community to increase its efforts and support to vulnerable countries, including developing islands.