23 Mar 2015
Sima Bahous, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Regional Bureau for Arab States
A flood-affected village in Upper Nile State in Sudan. Photo: Fred Noy/UN
Much has been said about the rolling back of development results and vulnerability of communities in parts of the Arab region because of violent conflicts, but less has been said about the increasing changes communities face from natural disasters and risks from climate change.
Debates at the recent World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan highlighted that in the 21st century, development will need to be increasingly resilient to shocks and crises, and address the multi-dimensional nature of risk.
This holds special relevance to the Arab region, as the most food-import dependent and water-insecure region on the planet today.
The Risk Triad: Conflict, Drought, and Climate Change
Many communities face the convergence of conflict, and one of the largest mass movements of forced migrants and refugees in modern history, and the exacerbating force of climate change, which brings more frequent and severe droughts, land degradation and food and water insecurity.
Out of a population of 357 million, about 150 million in the region are exposed to drought risks. In Somalia, the famine killed between 50,000-100,000 people and displaced 4 million people. In Syria, the drought of 2006-2010 decimated the livelihoods of more than 20% of the rural population, unleashing …