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Speech Transcripts

May 25, 2015

Opening remarks in the "Build Back Better" Reconstruction Seminar for Nepal

Hyatt Regency Kathmandu, Kathmandu, Nepal

- Honorable Prof. Dr. Govind Raj Pokharel,
Vice Chair of the National Planning Commission and Chair of the opening session

- Chief Guest Honorable Finance Minister,
Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat

- His Excellency Mr. Masashi Ogawa,
Ambassador of Japan to Nepal

- Mr. Bindu Lohani,
Vice President of Asian Development Bank

- Mr. Nicholas Rosellini,
Deputy Director of UNDP

Secretaries, Representatives from Private Sector, Friends from media, distinguish guests, ladies and gentlemen.

On behalf of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, JICA, I am honored to be here today to call to order the seminar for "Build Back Better Reconstruction for Nepal"

First of all, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to all the people who lost beloved family members, friends and colleagues to the earthquakes that shook Nepal on April 25th and May 12th. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the government and the people of Nepal for hosting this seminar despite the difficulties and challenges the country is facing.

The earthquakes have killed over 8,000, wounded 17,000 and affected up to 8 million Nepalese. They have caused immense damage to homes, healthcare facilities, schools, social services and other key infrastructure, as well as to the country's rich cultural heritage. The government of Nepal has valiantly led the response effort, and the Nepal Armed Forces have played a critical role in reaching out to people in remote areas who have been cut off from help. I would like to commend the government and the people of Nepal for the leadership they have demonstrated in the response effort.

Japan, as a country that frequently experiences natural disasters, believes that the suffering caused by natural disasters elsewhere in the world is not someone else's problems. Natural disasters are a global issue that affect and connect us all. We all remember and will never forget the support Japan received from Nepal after we were hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake 4 years ago.

Today, it is Nepal that finds itself in a time of need. In response to the earthquakes, JICA started supporting Nepal in the immediate aftermath of the disaster by sending rescue and medical teams, as well as emergency relief supplies. Close to one month since the first earthquake hit, international rescue and medical teams are now leaving Nepal, and relief and recovery activities are intensifying.

Though we are still in the very early recovery stage, I would like to bring your attention to planning for reconstruction and development. Starting to plan for reconstruction early on ensures a seamless transition "from humanitarian assistance to rehabilitation, reconstruction and development." The seamless approach is central to JICA's strategy for long term development. That is why, even as rescue teams were still on the ground in early May, we had sent reconstruction experts to assess the damage and start discussions with the government of Nepal on reconstruction efforts.

Our experience has also shown that the post disaster period is an opportunity to reassess vulnerabilities and to build back better. People often hope for a speedy return to the status quo. But simply rebuilding communities to pre-disaster standards will not address the vulnerabilities that existed earlier and expose them to future disasters. As part of the damage assessment conducted after the two earthquakes, seismologists highlighted that there is still pent-up seismic pressure in the region near Kathmandu and remote areas. This means that the region is at risk of suffering from more catastrophic earthquakes in the future. It is therefore imperative to build back better by investing in preventative disaster risk reduction measures to rebuild a more disaster resilient society.

Japan embraces this concept of "Build Back Better" as a result of our dire past experiences. It is at the core of our own disaster risk reduction policy and also guides our international cooperation policy when supporting other countries affected by natural disasters.

This concept has become one of the four priority areas of the "Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030)," a guiding agreement for disaster risk reduction adopted by UN member countries in Sendai, Japan, last March. Nepal will be the first Member State to bring the new framework into action.

Today, we have organized this seminar to support Nepal's realization of such actions by sharing Japan's experience and knowledge. We will cover three main topics. First, we will review the main characteristics of the Nepal earthquakes and the damages they have inflicted. Second, we will present Japan's experience and lessons learned on how to build back better after a disaster, notably on the importance of disaster resilient urban planning and anti-seismic measurements. Lastly, we will discuss the applicability of these measures in the context of Nepal.

I hope that the result of this seminar will serve as the foundation for reconstruction planning in Nepal. And I am confident that all international partners will work together to support Nepal's leadership in building a stronger and more resilient society. Let's rebuild better and stronger Nepal.

Thank you very much. Dhanyabaad.

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