Climate action to tackle hurricanes

13 Oct 2017 by Mario Peiró, Climate Change and Environment Technical Assistant, UNDP Dominican Republic

A fallen tree blocking a road in Dominican RepublicRecent hurricanes affected up to 20 thousand dwellings in Dominica, housing for approximately 80 percent of the country’s population. UNDP photo
“To deny climate change is to deny a truth we have just lived.” With these words, delivered at the UN General Assembly on 23 September, the Prime Minister of Dominica alluded to the situation in his country in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and María. Four hurricanes rated category 3 or higher, including Irma, with maximum winds of up to 295 km per hour, have travelled the Atlantic in as little as six weeks, and experts warn of the possibility of more such events during this cyclone season. … Read more

The pros and cons of ethical debt instruments

12 Sep 2017 by Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist, Development Finance, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

A man stands in front of a damaged house and a large fallen tree in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Dominican Republic.Ethical financing tools include "state-contingent" debt instruments that allow servicing payments to fall when times are bad, for example, when a natural disaster strikes. Photo: UNDP in Latin America and the Caribbean
In May, the World Bank issued the world’s first bond linked explicitly to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Labelling them “SDG bonds”, the bank raised 163 million euros from institutional investors in France and Italy with the proceeds to be channelled into projects that aim to eliminate extreme poverty, in line with Goal 1 of the SDGs. The initiative — which aims to capitalize on a rising number of investors interested in positive social and environmental impacts, in addition to financial returns — has been heralded an innovation in investment products and can be added to a growing list of innovative debt instruments that are marketed as “ethical” or socially and environmentally responsible. Other examples include: green bonds, a multibillion dollar market in which the proceeds of a bond issue are tied to environmentally friendly investments such as renewable energy and clean transportation; blue bonds, a newer debt instrument championed by the Seychelles to fund investments in sustainable ocean industries; vaccine bonds, where funds are raised from international capital markets for immunization programs in developing countries with bondholders repaid by future streams of donor development aid; and social and development impact bonds, where impact investors provide upfront financing for social or development interventions and are repaid by governments and/or donors when specified results are achieved). … Read more

What does ‘risk-informed’ development finance really look like?

15 Jun 2017 by Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist, Development Finance, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

The aftermath of Hurricane Ivan. Grenada has since negotiated a ‘hurricane clause’ with some of its debt held with some of its creditors, which allows for a 12-month pause in debt repayment in the event of a hurricane. UNDP photo
How to tackle various forms of risk – from extreme weather events to commodity price shocks, disease outbreaks and over-indebtedness – was high on the agenda of the 2017 Financing for Development (FfD) Forum at the UN. The Forum’s outcome document underscores the challenging nature of the global environment. Economic challenges, such as difficult macroeconomic conditions, low commodity prices, subdued trade growth and volatile international capital flows are compounded by natural disasters, climate change, environmental degradation, humanitarian crises and conflicts. … 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

Nature to the rescue: Using ecosystem services to reduce flood risks

12 May 2017 by Saskia Marijnissen, Regional Technical Adviser, Ecosystems and Biodiversity, UNDP Africa

In Sierra Leone, over 3 million people live in increasingly vulnerable coastal areas. Finding innovative and sustainable ways to work together with, rather than against, nature for effective risk reduction is critical. © Tommy Trenchard/ UNEP
From the mouth of the Mississippi to that of the Nile, communities have been drawn to coastal flood plains throughout the centuries. Where rivers and oceans meet, nature is at its best, and river sedimentation provides rich soils that greatly benefit agricultural productivity as well as fisheries. At present, an estimated 60 percent of our global population lives along estuaries and coastlines – making them among the most heavily populated areas of the world. As appealing as coastal areas are, living on a fertile floodplain comes with substantial risks. Floods are the most frequent of all natural disasters globally, and some of the largest disasters have occurred in coastal areas. Think about the devastation done by hurricane Katrina in New Orleans or the dangerous floods which happen every year in Bangladesh. … 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

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

A year after the Ecuador earthquake, we still have work to do

17 Apr 2017 by Nury Bermúdez, Emergency Response, Risk Management and Livelihoods Officer, UNDP Ecuador

With UNDP support, 2,600 families have resumed agricultural production in rural areas of Manabí and Esmeraldas, generating average increases of 50 percent in sales. Photo: Gabriela Ullauri/UNDP
It only took 40 seconds to unleash decades of pent up vulnerability in Ecuador. Substandard buildings, additional stories built unofficially, shoddy building materials—they all took their toll on 16 April 2016. With 671 deaths and over 241,000 people affected, it was unquestionably one of Ecuador’s biggest emergencies in decades. The country’s emergency response capabilities were overwhelmed, making clear the need to strengthen preparedness, prevention and recovery for dealing with large-scale adverse events. In the face of this situation, a national and international solidarity network activated to provide aid and relief during the emergency. Government agencies responded on multiple fronts in regions needing immediate aid. Different protocols and mechanisms were created and put to the test during the emergency. … Read more

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