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

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting the rights of people affected by disasters

04 May 2017 by María del Carmen Sacasa, UNDP Resident Representative, Peru

In addition to saving lives, the response to the flooding in Peru must seek to promote the active participation of people affected by the disaster. Photo: Mónica Suárez Galindo/UNDP Peru
In the past few weeks we have witnessed the devastating consequences of intense rains and landslides in Peru, affecting thousands of people. In counterpoint to the tragedy, the situation has also presented a unique opportunity to bring the country together. In the best-case scenario, we can demonstrate to Peruvians and to the world that it is possible to emerge from difficulty through solidarity. This means uniting different levels of government, politicians, civil society, people of all ages and the international community behind a common purpose: helping people recover. … Read more