The United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Risk Reduction

Geneve, Switzerland

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Ms. Mami Mizutori, the Special representative of the United Nations Secretary–General for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the expert jury panel who have selected the recipients who will be announced later this evening.

The UN Sasakawa Award for Disaster Risk Reduction was established in 1986 at which time awareness towards risk reduction was still very limited. Under the leadership of the UN, however, we have come a long way in raising awareness and making our world a safer place protecting communities at risk through application of new technologies and innovative approaches. The Sasakawa Award has also evolved with this global trend and the selection criteria focus on more and more innovative and diverse programs.

This award recognizes individuals, organizations and initiatives that have best contributed to ensuring inclusive, accessible and non-discriminatory participation in disaster risk reduction activities.

The 2019 award theme is “Building inclusive and resilient societies.”

Unprecedented disasters every year threaten the lives of everyone while people needing special attention such as elderly people and people with disabilities are left behind disproportionately during and after disaster. For example, people who are deaf or hard of hearing were not able to hear the emergency sirens or warnings to evacuate. It has been reported that the fatality rate of persons with disabilities is much higher than the whole population.

From these previous experiences, we realize that for building inclusive and resilient societies, it is not enough that community just accepts people at risk.

We need to act upon the concept of “no-one left behind” to mitigate the negative consequences of natural disasters. We must always think of the importance that people at risk in disaster must be at the center of disaster risk reduction activities. It is important to capitalize on their perspective, knowledge, and experiences to reduce the risks of disaster.

At the same time, involvement of all stakeholders, including the government, businesses, NGOs, academia, the media, Disabled People’s Organizations, is indispensable in order to strengthen policies and activities for disaster risk reduction.

In this way, communities will improve local systems of disaster prevention, preparedness and response to be more inclusive and resilient.

This year, there were 61 entries from diverse groups of individuals and organizations. I would like to congratulate the recipients of the 2019 Sasakawa Award and wish that this award will induce further development in their future work.

In closing, I would like to convey my appreciation to all the staff members of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) for your cooperation in preparing for this ceremony. I would also like to express my respects to all the organizations and individuals who have continued to work for reducing the risks from disaster in building an inclusive and resilient society.