Our Perspectives

Climate change and disaster risk reduction

Disaster risk reduction and sustainable development, two sides of the same coin

17 Mar 2017 by Matilde Mordt,Team Leader, Sustainable Development and Resilience, UNDP Regional Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean

Development processes should seek to ensure that people, livelihoods and infrastructure have lower levels of risk. Photo: Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH
This message came out forcefully during the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas, held last week in Montreal, Canada, at which delegates debated the connections between disaster, climate change and sustainable development. One way of looking at this is by adopting the so-called “integrated risk management” approach. This is a conceptual and practical approach that today replaces traditional concepts about emergency or disaster management, which focus on the immediate response to an event and the subsequent recovery process. Integrated risk management requires a more thorough knowledge and understanding of the scenarios of risk. The notion of the "social construction of risk " is central, which points to the existence of chronic risk due to poverty (as expressed in unemployment, low income, malnutrition, etc.), environmental degradation and governance challenges. These drivers of risk reflect the structural conditions of unsustainable development models. In Central America for instance, El Niño is an event that adds stress to already existing environmental, climatic and vulnerability conditions. Thus, the causes of crisis in the agricultural, health or water sectors are more related to human actions, such as overexploitation of resources, poor land use planning and inadequate technologies, than to physical events. … Read more

Tackling the crisis in the Lake Chad Basin

23 Feb 2017 by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa

Part of UNDP's response to the crisis is providing skills training for women, who make up 54 percent of those displaced by the conflict in north-east Nigeria. Photo: UNDP Nigeria
Last May, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (USCFR) organized a briefing session on the situation in the Sahel region of Africa. During the session UNDP stressed the need for broad, concerted action to confront violent extremism and bring development solutions to the region affected by the Boko Haram insurgency that originated in Nigeria’s north-east seven years ago. It identified an “arc of instability” that stretches across the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and the Lake Chad Basin. As UNDP and partners gather in Oslo for the International Humanitarian Conference on 24 February, we intend to focus on the situation in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin with heightened urgency. As an organization with deep knowledge gained through practical experience in the field, UNDP firmly believes that an all-encompassing response is the best way to resolve this crisis. However, solutions must also be tailored to each country's specific needs. Observers readily admit the Lake Chad Basin situation has been egregiously overlooked. The crisis could affect the security, economic, environmental and institutional integrity of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger … Read more

Drones join the fight against climate change risks in the Maldives

10 Feb 2017 by Sanny Jegillos, Senior Advisor, Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

I love drones. I have one that I fly when I want to de-stress. Little did I know when I bought it that I could actually play with it at work! It all started about a year ago. As senior advisor on disaster risk management at UNDP, I was intrigued to explore how new technology and innovation could support my work. My agency’s strong focus on innovation in the Asia-Pacific region, has resulted in some really interesting and outside-the-box initiatives. Some of them include, mobile apps on anti-corruption in Papua New Guinea, recovery and rebuilding in earthquake-affected Nepal and electronic waste recycling in China. … Read more

Like clockwork: Creating transformational action for the climate

25 Jan 2017 by Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Head of Climate Change Adaptation, Global Environmental Finance Unit, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

Without the right parts and right people, things don’t work as they should. This is as true for climate adaptation plans as it is for watches. UNDP photo
Have you ever seen the inner workings of a mechanical watch? It’s really quite remarkable – a masterpiece of an inter-locking mainspring, gear train, balance wheel, escapement mechanism and indicator dial come together to measure each second with the utmost precision. When one piece fails, the whole watch stops working. When it comes to climate change adaptation, the process of supporting real transformational change is just as intricate as maintaining your grandfather’s Casio and even more so when it comes to finding the right parts and the right ‘mechanic’. Without the right parts and right people things just don’t work as they should; this is as true for watches as it is for National Adaptation Plans and the goals set out by the Paris climate agreements. … Read more

Why we can hope for better crisis response in 2017

17 Jan 2017 by Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP Assistant Administrator, Crisis Response Unit Leader

The U.N. and its NGO partners have begun hammering out the details of how to “bridge the divide” between humanitarian, development and peace-building actors. Photo: UNDP
Despite the horror of 2016, in Syria, Yemen, Lake Chad Basin and many other areas, I remain hopeful that the international community will deliver on its big promises to change the way it works. Stubbornly clinging to hope is essential after this year. But I also have seen the clear foundations for change being laid. In 2016, I was involved in several historic summits held in response to the unprecedented humanitarian crises we are facing. I led the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) preparations for the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul in May. I’m now working with the World Bank, governments and other partners to implement some of the commitments from those meetings, including rolling out a new way of working in crises that will not only meet humanitarian needs, but also reduce them over time. This means setting shared goals, developing multi-year plans and taking other steps to bridge the divide between development, humanitarian and peace-building actors. I also attended the U.N. Summit for Refugees and Migrants and, with U.N.colleagues, I’m now helping to implement parts of the agreement reached at the summit, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which includes a commitment to better coordinate efforts to address the root causes of refugee flight. … Read more

Haiti: 3 months after Hurricane Matthew, 7 years after the earthquake

11 Jan 2017 by Yvonne Helle, Country Director, UNDP Haiti

The road to recovery is a long one. UNDP provides conditions for long-term recovery, resilience and sustainable development. Photo: UNDP Haiti
Hurricane Matthew was the first Category 4 storm to landfall in Haiti in 52 years, creating the worst humanitarian crisis in the country since the 2010 earthquake. At least 546 people died and the lives of 2.2 million people were affected. Of course, key infrastructure was damaged: in some areas, 90 per cent of homes were destroyed. Farming, fishing and small scale commercial activities were severely hit, depriving people of livelihoods and income. For instance, the Grand’Anse and Sud departments have seen 70 and 100 per cent of crops being destroyed. Three months after the disaster, people in the most affected areas still need immediate help to meet their basic needs, and, not less urgently, access to new opportunities to make a sustainable living. While the humanitarian response is still gathering pace, rehabilitation and recovery must also start immediately to reduce dependence on relief. Drawing on the lessons of the 2010 earthquake, our post-Matthew response was designed and is being implemented in close partnership with national and local authorities. Here is a snapshot of what UNDP has done since October … Read more

Ukraine: Humanitarian assistance, recovery and development need to go hand in hand

10 Jan 2017 by Janthomas Hiemstra, Country Director, UNDP Ukraine

A metalware factory in Kramatorsk provides critical jobs for displaced people and local workers after being rebuilt through UNDP Ukraine's co-financing programme. Photo: UNDP Ukraine
The conflict in the Ukraine is, without doubt, a humanitarian crisis. Almost 10,000 people have been killed in the eastern region of Donbas alone. Among the victims, some 2,000 people were civilians. Another 22,000 people have been wounded, millions are displaced and living dangerously close to heavy fighting. This crisis has affected millions, despite repeated ceasefires. The Ukraine crisis is also a crisis of development. Amid the human tragedy, concerns about development are often easy to overlook. But the impact can be devastating in the long-term. Basic infrastructure is put under enormous stress in a conflicts like this one, and that stress can lead to economic decline, eventually weakening the delivery of crucial social services in regions like Donbas. If we do not address human welfare and social development concerns, the impact of the conflict is likely to worsen dramatically. The burden will fall particularely on the elderly, the disabled, the poor, women and youth. This is why UNDP has set up its presence in Eastern Ukraine. for the past two years, UNDP has made its priority to contribute in finding solutions to everyday problems affecting the local population. … Read more

Our perspectives in 2016

29 Dec 2016

International Day of the Girl Child showed us how young women and girls are fighting inequality all over the world. Pictured here are young female computer coders in Kosovo. UNDP photo
This year UNDP celebrated its 50th anniversary and began the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was a momentous year. And helping to narrate it all was our huge network of experts and development practitioners around the world. At UNDP, one of our greatest strengths is our global reach; we’re on the ground in some 170 countries working with governments and citizens from all walks of life. Our blog is where UNDP officials and staff come to share their experience with you and offer their personal take on UNDP’s work. The blog is a space for UNDP colleagues to discuss their work and exchange ideas and opinions. But this year we also opened up our platform to outside voices through a guest blog exchange series with OECD Development Matters that focused on the SDGs. In case you missed it, here are some highlights from the many blog posts we published this year … Read more

Why I have hope for my country, Haiti

20 Dec 2016 by Barbara Calixte, Project Manager, Poverty Reduction Unit, UNDP Haiti

My name is Barbara Calixte. I want to tell you about my people, the Haitian people and why we have hope for our country. I joined UNDP after the 2010 earthquake. Seeing such extensive destruction and damage, I knew I wanted to help rebuild my country. With reputation of working hand-in-hand with the Haitian people, UNDP was, for me, an ideal place. It was without a doubt one of the most important decisions of my life. After the earthquake, UNDP supported the government in relief and recovery work. We empowered communities to rebuild smarter and strengthened their ability to respond to future disasters. We talked to people who lost practically everything but who still had pride, will and hope that Haiti could get back on its feet. … Read more

Resilient people and institutions: Ecuador’s post-earthquake challenge

12 Dec 2016 by Carlo Ruiz, Recovery Unit Coordinator, UNDP Ecuador

Resilient people and institutions: Ecuador’s post-earthquake challengeIn the wake of the April 2016 earthquake, UNDP has trained hundreds of homeowners on the principles of earthquake-resistant construction. Photo: UNDP Ecuador
No one is really prepared for an emergency until they’ve had to live through one. And the 16 April earthquake in Ecuador put us to the test. With the drawdown in the humanitarian response phase that is providing relief to survivors and victims, the hustle and bustle is dying down. Remnants of the disaster can be seen everywhere, and an idea of what the near future will bring and people’s resilience – their capacity to cope – is taking shape. During tours of the affected areas, I saw that people have, to a greater or lesser extent, a natural conviction that pushes them to overcome the situation they are in. Shortly after a catastrophe hits, whether from the need to survive or from attempts to recover the normality that has been ripped from them, men and women begin to help each other out. They get together and cook, and they care for, console and support each other. In places such as Pedernales, one of the hardest hit areas, just days following the tragedy, people had set up cooking hearths and places to prepare food to sell outside destroyed businesses. They organized games of ecuavoley (Ecuadorian-style volleyball) in streets where rubble was still being cleared. Disasters hit poor people the hardest. This is why it is crucial to work on recovery of livelihoods starting in the emergency response period. People who can manage to earn a living can overcome the psychological impact of adversity more quickly. This has been a key factor in the post-earthquake process in Ecuador. The institutional structure is another element that affects how fast communities recover. Having a response system, with mechanisms to quickly and strategically identify needs, makes recovery efforts more effective. Communities are more vulnerable if local authorities are absent and exercise less authority to ensure, among other things, compliance with building and land-use standards. … Read more