Why prepare for disaster recovery?

08 Jun 2017 by Lucile Gingembre, Project Coordinator, Preparedness for Disaster Recovery, UNDP Africa Regional Centre

Families carry personal belonging away from flooded areas in Niamey, Niger: National actors who are trained in post-disaster needs methodology can get together, assess disaster needs and design a long-term comprehensive recovery plan for affected communities. Photo: OCHA/Franck Kuwonu.
When mega-hurricane Katrina hit the US twelve years ago, I remember staring in amazement at my TV screen. I couldn’t understand why the country seemed so unprepared to deal with the catastrophe and get back on its feet. Years later, many lessons have been drawn; the number one take away is: “Make every possible effort to reduce risk”; number two “Have a plan and be ready”. The aftermath of a disaster can be challenging with many stakeholders, competing priorities and limited financial resources. Many questions come to mind: … Read more

How can we 'fix' disaster recovery?

07 Jun 2017 by Jo Scheuer, Director, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP and Francis Ghesquiere, Head of the Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR), World Bank

Disaster risk reductionIt is critical that disaster-prone countries establish the necessary institutional, policy and budgetary arrangements before a disaster occurs, while also strengthening their capacity for coordination and implementation. Photo: Andrea Ruffini/UNDP
Deficient recovery is imperiling sustainable development, and leaving millions of the most vulnerable behind. The link between poverty and disasters is becoming clearer – new research shows that extreme weather events alone are pushing up to 26 million people into poverty every year. With forces like climate change, urban expansion, and population growth driving this trend, annual losses have passed more than $500 billion annually, and show no signs of slowing. With limited time and resources, however, adequate preparedness for these common events is often neglected in developing countries. The result is a pattern of deficient recovery that is imperiling sustainable development, and leaving millions of the most vulnerable behind. … Read more

Why we need to save our oceans now—not later

05 Jun 2017 by José Vicente Troya, Technical Advisor, Ocean and Water Governance, UNDP in Latin America and the Caribbean

UNDP-RBLAC-Jamaica,OldHarborBay3-2014Over 10 million residents of Small Island Developing States depend on the Pacific Ocean for survival. Photo: UNDP Jamaica
What if the blue fades away as seawaters become brown and coral reefs become white as marine grasslands wither and life below water vanishes? This is already happening at a staggering rate. It’s a lose-lose for all: people and planet. Fish stocks are declining. Around 80 percent of fishing is either collapsing or just fully exploited. The ocean is also being polluted at an alarming rate. Fertilizer run-off and 10 to 20 million metric tons of plastic debris enter the oceans each year and destroy biodiversity and ecosystems. At this rate the number of dead zones will increase, and by the year 2050 the oceans could contain more plastic than fish, measured by weight. If we don’t take action now this trend may become irreversible. Recognizing this urgency, country representatives are gathered at the Ocean Conference at the UN headquarters in New York to address marine pollution, declining fisheries, loss of coastal and marine habitat and the vanishing life below water. … Read more

Decision time? First take a look at what makes you crazy

26 May 2017 by Jacinda Fairholm, Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Advisor, UNDP

In the Dominican Republic, UNDP created a risk analysis that improves knowledge about seismic threats and physical vulnerability of the Gran Santo Domingo area. Photo: UNDP
The most read New York Times article in 2016 was Why you will marry the wrong person. In a follow-up podcast, Author Alain de Botton outlines how the romantic ideal obstructs the clear analysis and application of time-tested criteria necessary before entering into, arguably, one of the most important decisions an individual can make. Marriage - at extreme ends both possibly rich and fruitful or miserably impoverishing - is often calculated in heady moments of euphoria and dreams. Poor decision making can have enormous emotional and financial costs, potentially spreading beyond the couple down to children and into future. He suggests that the vetting process should include one key question: “What makes you crazy?”. In other words, analyzing one’s flaws as well as considering what might be risky to the partnership or to one’s self will result in a much a better decision over the long haul. … Read more

Natural disasters don’t exist but natural hazards do

18 May 2017 by Martin Ras, Policy Specialist, Disaster and Climate Risk Governance, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

Hazards are natural events, occurring more or less frequently and of a greater or lesser magnitude, but disasters are due to risk-blind development. Photo: UN MINUSTAH
As I took the ferry home to Long Island City (New York City), I saw the start of a new water front residential complex on the East River. This is an area that was heavily flooded during hurricane Sandy. I presume that a construction company/developer must have received a construction permit for this site and, I hope, have plans in place to manage any potential flooding that could occur during a future hurricane. It’s hard to be certain of course. In many cities, short-term economic interests often outweigh the clear benefits of proper land-use planning and building codes. This is especially true in developing nations where the institutional systems to manage and enforce said building codes are lacking or without any real power. What ends up happening is that there are little to no consequence for those who ignore the measures intended to keep people safe. … Read more

Addressing climate-induced risks in an urbanizing world

12 May 2017 by Rajeev Issar, Policy Specialist, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP

Flooded streetWith a global population expected to be over 66 percent urban by 2050, and two-thirds of the urban environment remaining to be built, the opportunities to advance risk-informed and resilient urban development must be harnessed. Photo: UNDP Peru
Having lived my entire life in big cities, I always had a feeling that cities were safe from the vagaries of disasters -- which occurred in some distant rural area and never closer to home. Once in a while, incidents like rainfall induced flooding or mild earthquake shakings, which disrupted day-to-day life for some time, were shrugged off as one-off events. The sense of invincibility of the urban lives and livelihoods remained. … Read more

Oceans of data, islands of databases

08 May 2017 by Sanny Jegillos, Senior Advisor, Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

Man in his shopRisk-informed recovery programmes respond to the unique development challenges of island countries like Vanuatu, which was hit by Cyclone Pam in March 2016. UNDP Photo
I am currently in the Solomon Islands, on my second mission in the Pacific Islands this year, and I am now certain that I will be back in Papua New Guinea in less than a month. Since Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and Cyclone Winston in Fiji (2015/2016), my engagement as UNDP advisor on disaster risk reduction and recovery in the Pacific has increased. For UNDP colleagues based in the Pacific, I hear that there has not been any pause in crisis response since 2014. What does this trend mean? What do we foresee in the future? Where do we get the information to guide our organization’s strategy and programmes? … Read more

Integrating climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction

05 May 2017 by Walid Ali, Climate Change Specialist, UNDP Regional Hub for Arab States

The ongoing conflict is the root cause of the food crisis in Yemen, but climate change serves as a ‘threat multiplier’. Photo: Maged Ali
As the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction soon gets underway, the world is witnessing the highest levels of famine risk in decades. While war and conflict stand as a major root cause of the crisis in the Middle East and Africa, climate change is a key “enhancer” of the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes. Supporting UNDP’s climate change actions in the Arab region, I experience first-hand how an integrated approach to climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) is needed more than ever. Both share a focus on risk-informed development and preventing the worst impacts of climatic disasters from emerging. They have a common objective to build the resilience of communities so they can withstand and bounce back from crisis. Recent years have seen devastating impacts of more frequent and severe droughts from Syria and Iraq to Somalia and Sudan. Some studies now show that the region may face multi-year mega-droughts in the future as the region’s climate shifts to a ‘new normal’. … Read more

A humanitarian crossroads: Why climate resilience is key to avoiding future food crises

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

The current food crises in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen have links to climate change and a lack of resilient systems that can withstand drought, flood and other impacts. Photo: UNDP Somalia
The world is seeing its worst humanitarian crisis since 1945. Right now, over 20 million people are at risk of starvation. We are at a crossroads. The current food crisis can very easily be linked to changes in climate and a lack of resilient systems that can withstand drought, flood, changing rains and other impacts that are leaving people without crops, without money and without food to feed their families. Immediate humanitarian aid is needed for hard-hit nations like Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. But the work does not stop there. We need to continue our efforts to build more climate-resilient nations, where changes in climate don't spell disaster and leave children starving, where proactive - rather than reactive - steps are taken to support vulnerable people in breaking the cycle of poverty, and where leaders and institutions have the capacity, skills, training and resources they need to make sure humanitarian crises like this do not repeat themselves. … Read more

The Sendai Framework: Underwriting the Sustainable Development Goals

28 Apr 2017 by Jan Kellett, Special Advisor for External Engagement, Climate, Disaster and Energy team, UNDP

A girl collects water in MozambiqueDisasters, and inadequate recovery from them, affect infrastructure, healthcare systems, livelihoods, education, water resources and more. Photo: UNDP Mozambique
Late into the night of 17 March 2015, now more than two years back, Member States, after a marathon negotiation session, finally agreed upon the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The framework document, though not a perfect creation, charts the way forward for national governments, civil society, academia, the private sector and the international community, the target outcome being ‘The substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries.’ In a step change from the previous agreed upon framework 10 years earlier, Sendai makes risk indistinguishable from development. Risk and development, development and risk, finally one and the same. This is absolutely critical because only development that is risk-informed will be truly sustainable. In the next month and a half two key events on the international calendar will once again bring light on this subject. … Read more