Using science-based information to guide
Text of speech by Disaster Management and Human
Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe MP at the High Level Segment of the
World Climate Conference - 3 (WCC-3) in Geneva, Switzerland on September
We welcome the main objective of this conference which is to bring
together science-based information on climate change to guide
policy-making, planning and practice across the planet.
Speaking as I do from an Asian perspective - a continent in which
several developing states, including small island developing states are
located - such timely and comprehensive information sharing is vitally
important not only to the well-being and developmental processes,
benefiting communities and peoples, but also to address core issues of
survival of some of the most vulnerable segments of national
As a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)
and a country that participated in the development of the South Asian
Comprehensive Regional Framework on Disaster Management adopted by the
SAARC Council of Ministers for the 2006 - 2015 period, climate change
adaptation is gaining more importance as an integral component of
disaster management and the availability of user defined, customizable
information to national and regional planners and policymakers.
Climate change can have adverse impacts on agriculture in
Since the First World Climate Conference was held in 1979 in Geneva,
climate change has long been identified as a multifaceted key
developmental challenge. If allowed to go unaddressed, the phenomenon
can potentially have devastating impacts for many of the world’s
Just as the problems are complex and diverse, the global community’s
responses have been equally varied. The institutional responses that
have evolved, including the establishment of intergovernmental
mechanisms such as the WMO, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
and associated processes, demonstrate that this complex issue needs to
be dealt with through a multitude of approaches and institutional
A global framework
To my mind, the development of a Global Framework for Climate
Services (GFCS) involving a partnership of scientists and policymakers,
is a vital step towards sharing information to facilitate better
The multi-stakeholder approach that we seek to encourage in this
process will also result in a wide range of inputs that can only improve
It is also noteworthy that every effort is being made to develop
synergies between what are essentially parallel and not divergent
processes with one overall objective - to benefit all peoples and
communities that we are committed to serve.
The outcome of these processes must be in compliance with the
provisions of the UN Framework on Climate Change Convention which has
190 Parties. We need to view this conference as a significant event on a
single continuum of initiatives being taken to respond more effectively
to climate change.
Just as the GFCS envisages the marriage of existing initiatives with
a new information management and delivery system, it is our view that
there should be consistency and harmonization of international and
inter-governmental efforts which will better enable us - as a global
community facing a common threat to deal more effectively with the
challenges posed by the climate change.
As the Minister in charge of the subject of Disaster Management, I am
particularly enthused by the potentialities the GFCS might offer in
terms of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and disaster risk management (DRM).
Information is critical, particularly relating to longer-term
predictions that enable us to prepare better for the exigencies brought
about by climate change.
Also, as the Minister in charge for the subject of human rights, I
appreciate the possibilities that this instrumentality gives us to
ensure that human security, expressed in terms of freedom from fear and
freedom from want, are guaranteed. Seminal issues of human rights
connected with physical safety and security, the right to a livelihood,
the right to food, safe water, right to community and of a healthy
environment are all threatened by climate change.
As policymakers, it is vital that we should base our plans and
policies on the best information available so that we are able to gain
optimum results for the benefit of our communities.
As was pointed out in the outcome document of the Second Session of
the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction held in this city barely
three months ago, which I had the opportunity to participate in, climate
change is already seen to greatly magnify the disaster risks threatening
many developing countries.
It is becoming apparent that an increasing scale and frequency of
humanitarian emergencies is stretching both local and international
capacities to respond to these disasters.
The advent of slow-onset disasters and the associated food
insecurity, among other threats to human security, are significant
At the June 2009 session, it was noted that addressing the underlying
drivers of disaster risk therefore offers the potential for a threefold
gain - for adaptation, DRR and poverty reduction.
The GFCS must also contribute to efforts are addressing impacts on
the future development of human settlements.
Ways and means must be found to combine these efforts and knowledge
with the recent thrust to maximize inputs of indigenous knowledge on DRR.
Use of information
Education across sectoral boundaries of national and sub-national
stakeholders relating to the use of this information in all processes
across all fields - health and environmental management, business,
construction, tourism, community, development, water management,
agricultural services including research, coastal management, highways
and transportation, should also be a priority.
Finally, there must be sufficient capacity-building among national
meteorological and hydrological services and the dissemination of this
information to national and regional leaders and policymakers,
encouraging user uptake in order to make the larger aims and objectives
of this conference a reality.