Henk Ovink made his debut as international water envoy for the Dutch government at the UN World conference on disaster risk reduction in Sendai, Japan. He spoke during the working session on resilient cities, organised by the R!SE Initiative on 17 March.

Ovink warned not to put too much emphasis on developing more frameworks. “Making cities more resilient is immense complex. When you make an urban resiliency plan the situation has already changed before the plan is finished. Therefore my advice is to embrace the complexity. Use all the intelligence that is available to incorporate as much flexibility as possible in your plans”, he said giving a remarkable twist to the abstract issue.

Rebuild by design
Ovink gained experience in New York as principle of the Rebuild by design competition after super storm Sandy. The competition challenged experts to come up with new ideas to make New York resilient against extreme weather events.

The call for ideas generated an unprecedented series of innovative urban designs. Seven of which are now under way via 930 million dollars in US Federal funding. As Dutch water envoy, Ovink has been appointed to share his experiences internationally.

dws-wcdrr-rise-rebuild-by-design-locals-350px  Rebuild by design involved over 500 organisations, including many local communities.

More public and private involvement
The Dutch government participates in the global R!SE Initiative that was launched by the UN Office for disaster risk reduction (UNISDR) in December last year. The initiative aims to unlock the potential for public and private actors in disaster risk reduction.

During the World Conference in Sendai it took the opportunity to get its message across the globe and showed several of its projects that are already under way, including the development of a scorecard to measure progress of making a city more climate proof, an insurance development fund for education programmes and a method to assess global risk trends.

dws-wcdrr-rise-scott-williams-350pxCoordinator Scott Williams of the R!SE Initiative advocated to be more honest in communcation on the risks of natural disasters.

Be honest in communication of risks
"The patient is ill", Scott Williams said, one of the coordinators of the R!SE Initiative. "Every time there is a disaster the patient hypes. It is a horrendous post traumatic stress symptom. We need to get the hype attitude before the disaster", Williams added.

An essential element for the patient to cure is to be honest about the risks, Williams assured. "We have to make risks more visible. Be more honest about the possible effects of natural disasters", he advised.

Also read on this website
• WCDRR 2015: Highlights of Dutch contributions on flood risk reduction, 23 March 2015
• WCDRR 2015: Japan and Netherlands join UNISDR in Resilient Cities Initiative, 23 March 2015
• WCDRR 2015: Agreement on seven targets to reduce victims and damage caused by disasters, 22 March 2015
• WCDRR 2015: Dutch flood expertise appreciated in Serbia, 19 March 2015
• WCDRR 2015: Scaling up coastal ecosystems contributes to disaster risk reduction, 19 March 2015
• WCDRR 2015: Colombia, Japan and the Netherlands take lead in global advocacy of river deltas, 17 March 2015
• WCDRR 2015: Royal Dutch field visit to tsunami hit elementary school, 17 March 2015
• WCDRR 2015: Disaster risk reduction makes a perfect blend with water management, 16 March 2015
• WCDRR 2015: Partners for resilience puts communities in front seat of smart DRR, 15 March 2015
• WCDRR 2015: Flood prevention key for Dutch delegation in Sendai, Japan, 10 March 2015
• Henk Ovink appointed first international water envoy for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, 12 March 2015
• IABR2014: ‘Natural flood defence systems enable insurance companies to step in', 1 June 2014
• Rebuild by design: Teams present ten final proposals for super storm Sandy-affected region, 4 April 2014

More information
R!SE Initiative
UN Office for disaster risk reduction (UNISDR)
Geneva, Switserland

Rebuilding by Design
New York, USA

Ministry of Environment and Infrastructure
The Hague, the Netherlands