Second Committee Urges a Disaster Risk-Informed and Resilient COVID-19 Recovery

News | 19 October 2020
The Second Committee of the UN General Assembly convened its annual official side-event under the theme “Disaster Risk-Informed and Resilient Covid-19 Recovery”. The dialogue was organized by the UN Office for the Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), UN Women and the ILO, and brought together governments, workers’ and employers’ representatives, academia and leading researchers.

COVID-19 has triggered an unprecedented social and economic catastrophe on a global scale. Decades of development progress have unraveled, and poverty and inequality, particularly gender inequality, have deepened, especially in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS. As a consequence, exposure to other hazards, including the intensifying climate crisis, have greatly increased, with impacts foreseen long into the future. Deep rooted and pre-existing decent work deficits wrought by informality, gender inequality, limited social protection, skills gaps, and inadequate infrastructure have increased vulnerability to disasters. Small and medium enterprises have been heavily impacted, with ripple effects across the economy.

Achieving the SDGs will be contingent on effectively implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, especially in countries in special situations, and decent work is an important component of such a risk-informed approach. Investing in the future through an employment-lens can ensure that job opportunities are created in the recovery and rehabilitation for those who are most affected by the pandemic. ILO Recommendation No. 205 on Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience provides guidance on decent work and resilient, healthy and safe workplaces. When new job opportunities provide decent and safe work, support the resilience of their employees and communities, and take current and emerging risks into consideration they can be a catalyst for the socioeconomic transformation needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In the discussion of the first panel, titled “Understanding systemic risk for transformational economic and social policy”, Dr. Rachel Cleetus, Policy Director Climate and Energy Programme, Union of Concerned Scientists, from the United States, emphasized that global markets and institutions had to take risks into account in the face of growing disasters, such as the climate crisis. Mr. Aromar Revi, Director, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, stated that there was a need to rethink both risks and development, and there had to be a bottom-up approach to disaster risk reduction (DRR). Prof. John Handmer, Senior Science Adviser in the Risk and Resilience Program, International Institution for Applied Systems Analysis, from Australia, positively noted that communities were adaptable.

The second panel focused on “Applying a disaster risk-informed approach for COVID-19 rehabilitation and sustainable development”, and Mr. Charles Msangi, Disaster Management Coordinator, Prime Minister’s Office of Tanzania, stated that all sectors had to consider disaster risks and the government had called for a private sector network on DRR. Ms. Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson, Chairperson, Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, stated that more public-private collaboration on DRR was needed to ensure a sustainable COVID-19 recovery. It was important to define risks and model scenarios. Further, she emphasized the need for cloud-based solutions and access to key technologies in order to allow for business continuity in face of disasters such as hurricanes. Accessibility to financing was also essential for recovery, particularly for MSMEs. Ms. Kaira Reece, Deputy General Secretary, Trade Union Convergencia Sindical, from Panama, encouraged implementation of labor policies that could protect the health and safety of workers. She underscored the importance of universal social protection coverage and encouraged the implementation of the ILO’s Recommendation No. 205.

Member States expressed a continued commitment to the Sendai Framework, and many highlighted the importance of including DRR in local and national plans. In addition, the Fifth UN Conference on LDCs would be an opportunity to put resilience at the core of actions for the LDCs. Investments in prevention and disaster risk governance had to be made, in order to avoid crises with cascading impact, such as COVID-19.

As highlighted by Ms. Martha Newton, Deputy Director General for Policy at the ILO, COVID-19 was an opportunity to create responses that can tackle the health, social and economic consequences of the pandemic, while contributing to building resilience to future shocks across sectors. International Labour Standards, the Decent Work agenda, the 2030 Agenda, the SDG, the Sendai Framework, and the Paris Agreement provide a strong basis for designing such strategies and responses that place people, employment and decent work at the centre of recovery and a more sustainable development path.