Statement by H.E. Ambassador Koro Bessho, Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, at the Launch Event of the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development” 2018-2028

(As delivered)
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen.
 
From Japan, Mr Masatoshi Akimoto, Parliamentary Vice Minister for Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism was to speak here today. Unfortunately, the snow cancelled his plane so instead, I am speaking now mainly based on what he had intended to say.
 
Water for sustainable development covers various issues ranging from water resources development to wastewater management. The Action Plan of the Decade is expected to play a critical role in these areas.
Over 600 million people in the world today lack access to safe water. Improvement of water sanitary environment is essential for maternal and child health. At the same time, basic human needs are often devastated by water disasters.
 
Today, I would like to focus on the importance of disaster preparedness.
Japan has suffered from water disasters since ancient times. Floods and drought hit paddies, villages, as well as urban areas. Recently, disasters have occur more frequently and bring heavier damages than ever before.
 
Indeed we are heading toward uncharted territory and we must work together to figure out how to address this enormous challenge.
 
In Japan, we have one advantage. Because we have been hit by disasters so often, they are very well documented in our history. We can study old documents to find disaster records, and by surveying current landscapes and geological conditions, we can come to understand what we must expect in the next disaster.
 
Another important wisdom remains in our local communities. Devastating flood and drought do not come every year, but on average, one person experiences in Japan, a couple of“lifetime”natural disasters in his or her life. It means experienced parents can transfer their wisdom to their young children. When children grow up, they can in turn transfer this knowledge and wisdom to the next generation while adding their own experience. This cycle has fostered Japan's "disaster resilient culture."
 
From the experience of recent mega disasters, we rediscovered lessons in local communities. "Learn from seniors." A community led disaster drill is held everywhere in Japan every year on 1 September, commemorating the day of the Great Kantou Earthquake that hit Japan in 1923. This helps to pass on the experience and knowledge. 
 
The second key message is "Learn from neighbors." “Neighbors” today go far beyond the traditional sense of the word. We can get real-time information on disaster knowledge through the media and the Internet anywhere in the world. We are able to pick up advice from sources far away from your neighborhood.
Indeed we have“neighbors”all over the world. Leaders and experts from the world can introduce information and share their wisdom. The new Water Decade will provide this opportunity.
 
Lastly, I would like to emphasize the value of discussions by world leaders on water-related risk reduction. Through the discussions, each country can learn wisdom from “seniors”and“neighbors" of the world.
For such discussions, "UN Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters" has been organized 3 times since 2013 in the UN Headquarters. Japan will support and join the Session, now as a part of the Action Plan of the Decade.
We are faced with unprecedented level of natural disasters. It is only natural that we unite to foster the "disaster resilient culture" in the world.

Thank you very much.