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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

Wednesday 20 April, 2005

13th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development

Impact of natural disasters on water, sanitation and human settlements - prevention and response:

Thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to discuss the impact of natural disasters on water, sanitation and human settlements, and importantly, the ways in which we are working to prevent and respond to such events.

Natural disasters continue to undermine the national development objectives of our partners in the Asia-Pacific region, and destroy hard-won progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - particularly those related to the water, sanitation and human settlements' targets.

Australia's humanitarian action is focused on the Asia-Pacific region - an area where countries are highly vulnerable to a range of natural hazards, including cyclones, floods, landslides, droughts, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis.

While we are committed to disaster relief efforts, we are also focused on prevention of damage caused by natural disasters. To this end, we believe that investment in disaster risk management measures for vulnerable communities is critical to achieving progress against the MDGs.

Australia supports an integrated approach to disaster risk management within the context of sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region.

Humanitarian action can help in a number of ways to reduce poverty and prevent conflict. It can counteract social instability; reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen local capacities; and promote the conditions necessary for development and poverty reduction.

The overarching goal of Australia's Humanitarian Action Policy - launched in January this year - is to protect lives, alleviate suffering, maintain human dignity and assist communities in their recovery from conflict, natural and other disasters.

We seek to achieve this goal through effective responses, prevention, preparedness and risk reduction.

Our policy clearly recognises the functional links between humanitarian activities and broader aid policies and programmes. Through it, humanitarian action is being integrated into development activities, which helps to ensure Australian responses are fully coordinated at the country level.

Our policy also has a particular focus on increased participation by beneficiary governments and communities in all levels of activities.

To this end, Australian Prime Minister John Howard recently met with His Excellency, President Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to agree upon th e $1 billion Australia–Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development .

This partnership is aimed at providing assistance for the reconstruction and development in Aceh, and throughout Indonesia in the wake of the devastating tsunami in December last year.

This partnership is Australia's single largest aid initiative and brings our total development cooperation commitment in Indonesia to $1.8 billion over the next five years.

Mr. Chairman, thank you. It is my great pleasure to be here this week to meet with my colleagues and support the CSD as we move a step closer to achieving sustainable development.

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