“Second UN Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters”

9:30-17:50 on Wednesday, November 18, 2015
The UN Headquarters, New York, the U.S.A.


• Organizer: UN Secretary-General
• Co-organizers: UN Secretary-Generals’ Special Envoy on Disaster Risk Reduction and Water and High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP)

9:30-10:30 Opening Plenary in the General Assembly Hall
Co-chairs: Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations and Dr. Han Seung-soo, UN Special Envoy on Disaster Risk Reduction and Water

  • Opening address by Mr. Ban Ki‐moon, UN Secretary‐General
  • Congratulatory address by H.E. Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
  • Keynote address by HIH the Crown Prince of Japan
  • Closing remarks by Dr. Han Seung-Soo, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Disaster Risk Reduction and Water / Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea / Chair of the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP)

11:00-12:50 High Level Panel Debates on Water and Disasters in the Conference Room 4
Chair: Dr. Han Seung-soo, UN Special Envoy on Disaster Risk Reduction and Water


(2) Panel Discussion:


  • Dr. Kenzo Hiroki, Coordinator of HELP, Member of UNSGAB, Vice President of College of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (CLITT), MLIT, Japan

High Panelists:

15:00-16:20 Major Group Panel“Multi-stakeholder Partnership for Water-related DRR” in the Conference Room 4
Moderator: Global Water partnership (GWP)

Opening: Ms. Josefina Maestu-Unturbe, Director UN Office to Support the International Decade for Action “Water for Life” 2005-2015
Keynote speech: Dr. Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, Chair of Global Water Partnership (GWP)
Making the UN fit-for-purpose through global partnership based on holistic project management and stakeholder management:

Multi stakeholder panel

  • Ms. Josefina Maestu-Unturbe, Director UN Office to Support the International Decade for Action “Water for Life” 2005-2015
  • Dr. Alice Bouman-Dentener, Honorary Founding President, Women for Water Partnership
  • Ms. Asma Bachikh, President World Youth Parliament for Water (WYPW)
  • Mr. Tom Vereijken, Co-founder and Former Chair of European Water Partnership (EWP)

Synthesis: Dr. Wolfgang Kron, Head of Research for Hydrological Hazards, Munich Re and Advisor of HELP
Closure: Dr. Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, Chair of Global Water Partnership

16:20-17:40 Science Technology Panel – “Science and Technology to Advance DRR on Water” in the Conference Room 4

Moderator: Science Council of Japan (SCJ) and International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management (ICHARM)

Objectives and relevance of the technical session and introduction of speakers:

National and Regional Flood and Drought Issues:

Contribution by the Earth Observation Communities:

Activating International Initiatives:

Panel Discussion on how to promote inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary cooperation for designing and implementing flood and drought risk reduction: all presenters
Summary of commitments and conclusion by the Chair: Prof. Toshio Koike, the Chair

17:40-17:50 Closing Plenary in the Conference Room 4
Special Remarks: Ms. Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Disaster Risk Reduction
Wrap-up by Co-Chair: Dr. Han Seung-Soo, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Water / Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea / Chair of the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP)

Concept Note, including details of agenda and speakers


Chair’s Summary


In March 2013, the United Nations Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters and the High Level Panel on Water and Disaster were held at UN Headquarters in New York. Following these Events, Member States and the UN system sought to advocate for national, regional, and local policies and cooperation measures which could reduce disaster risks related to water.

Additionally, the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) has been working to raise awareness and build common understanding of global water issues, promote cooperation, and encourage responsible and sustainable water management practices. The High Level Panel on Water and Disaster (HLEP/UNSGAB) in its 2009 Water and Disaster Action Plan called for actions for the UN “to dedicate a substantial proportion of a future session to disaster management.”

In March 2015, the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) was held in Sendai, Japan, at which participating States reviewed the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 (HFA), and adopted a successor framework, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. Recognizing that disaster risk reduction advances progress on sustainable development and climate change, the Sendai Framework is a key pillar/element of the post-2015 development agenda, together with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and target indicators under the SDGs, which will be adopted at the SDG Summit in September 2015.

The proposed high-level event will build on the WCDRR, the Conference on Financing for Development, and the SDG Summit, and will become a milestone for the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris, Istanbul Humanitarian Summit and Habitat III. It will be a timely opportunity to highlight the issue of “Water and Disasters” in the context of these ongoing international processes and the internationally agreed frameworks. The primary objective of the event is to overarch the issue of Disaster Risk Reduction and Water, as well as other core global issues, which are closely interlinked with each other and are crucial for achievement of sustainable development. It also aims to send a message to the international community for the purpose of further promotion of necessary actions by respective stakeholders.

Rationale and objectives

During the past decade, climate and water-related disasters have not only struck more frequently but have also been more severe. Over 90% of disasters in the world are water-related in terms of number of affected people. Disaster risk levels are driven by factors such as climate variability, poverty, poor land-use planning and management, as well as ecosystem degradation, and are increasing as more people and assets are located in areas of high risk.

The economic loss risk associated with water-related disasters such as floods and tropical cyclones is increasing in all regions, and the poor are suffering the most. The recent mega-water disasters have demonstrated that the issue of water and disasters is no longer a local issue, but is a global one, and cooperation and solidarity among nations is the only rational way forward.

The issue of “Water and Disasters” must be addressed with firm determination and without delay if we hope to make sustainable development a reality. It is high time to accelerate our efforts to share our experiences and lessons learned, strengthen regional coordination and collaboration, set common goals and targets in order to lay a foundation for weathering the water-related disasters to come, and make progress towards creating a better-prepared and resilient society.

Expected outcome

Messages and recommendations to be delivered to the relevant major UN conferences, including the UNFCCC COP 21 in November 2015, Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, and Habitat III in October 2016.