Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Rabab Fatima, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh at the HLPF Side-event on Adaptation and Resilience in a post-COVID world: Transformative, Inclusive and Locally-led Climate Policy and Action, New York 8 July 2020

Thank you, Ambassador Geraldine.

Excellencies, Distinguished Panelists, Dear Colleagues. Good afternoon.

I thank you for organizing this timely and much-needed discussion on the dual crisis confronting us – climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. Both are proving to be existential threats. I thank all the speakers for their thoughtful and thought-provoking perspectives.

While the lives and the livelihoods of the people across the world are being upended by the pandemic, we all realize that our preparedness against a crisis of this magnitude have been woefully inadequate. And as we have heard today, climate change can compound the situation, especially where there are pre-existing vulnerabilities, and potentially cause greater and irreparable damages.

The phenomenon of climate change has already resulted in extreme weather events and more frequent disasters. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, many parts of the world, including Bangladesh was struck by disasters, cyclones, typhoons, floods. Even as we speak, Japan is having one of its recurring devastating floods, leading to death and destruction of massive scale. Such extreme climate events and disasters are jeopardizing our development gains and forcing more people into poverty and vulnerability. The pandemic is a double blow. Although there is no scientific linkage yet between climate change and the Covid-pandemic, there could be important lessons on how to deal with such emergencies.

As one of the most climate vulnerable countries with recurring disasters, we have learnt over the years, the critical importance of disaster preparedness, especially in three specific areas, which carry important lessons for our pandemic response: and these are, the need for: i) having strong institutions for disaster preparedness and management; ii) having a system in place to channel immediate support and recovery; and iii) ensuring local community engagement.

As it is with climate emergencies, preparedness, community engagement, institutional capacity, are all key to adaptation and resilience in tackling health and pandemic emergencies. And we have seen how even the most developed countries with the strongest of health infrastructures, were totally under-prepared to deal with the pandemic crisis.

As far as climate change in concerned, in Bangladesh, we have adopted transformative adaptation and resilience building measures including an 82 -year Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 based on natural solutions. To respond to disaster related crisis effectively, we have institutionalized early warning system and disaster preparedness practices in disaster risk reduction programmes. Our scientists and researchers have invented drought and salinity resistant crops to ensure food security in the context of disasters. We have adopted a ‘whole of society’ approach in our adaptation and resilience building where the local community is a critical player in identifying and addressing specific needs and thus ensuring the sustainability of the efforts made. And there could be important lessons from that experience in tackling the current pandemic, which is not going away anytime soon.

There is clearly more that needs to be done to enhance our preparedness. It is also evident that there is a greater need for investment in strengthening the infrastructure for adaptation and resilience, and crisis management. More finance is needed; as is the need for access to technology in order for any efforts to be sustainable or effective to respond to any crisis.

The Covid recovery plans must be comprehensive. It should look at the pre-existing vulnerabilities of the countries such as climate vulnerability. Post-Covid actions should complement climate actions to create stronger resilience against any future shock or calamities. And for that global solidarity is imperative. Development partners, as well as multilateral donors and the private sector must come forward to support national efforts, especially of the most vulnerable countries, to build back better by providing additional financial and technological support. Without that, there would be no inclusive or transformational changes.

As the current chair of the CVF and the V20, Bangladesh will continue its engagement with all global and regional stakeholders to mobilize political will and collective actions to address the existing gaps in the global endeavours for adaptation and resilience building, against all forms of emergencies, whether it be climate or health emergencies, given their inter-linkages in terms of exacerbating pre-existing vulnerabilities. And I am happy to share the panel with Dr. Saleemul Huq, a member of the advisory panel of our CVF presidency here with us. He has a wealth of experience and practical perspective to share.

I thank you for your kind attention and for this opportunity to share a few thoughts on what I believe to be a complex subject.