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

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

Early recovery in Haiti: Localize the relief effort to avoid the aid dependency trap

04 Nov 2016 by Bruno Lemarquis, Deputy Director, Crisis Response Unit, UNDP

A crisis response led by the Haitian people and government lowers the risk of vulnerable people becoming dependent on international assistance. Photo: Andrea Ruffini/UNDP Haiti
Exactly one month ago, Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc in Haiti. More than 1.4 million people still need assistance; more than 140,000 people have been displaced and in some areas crops were completely wiped out. The disaster has left people living in makeshift shelters, unable to provide for their families and dependent on assistance. After the first few initial critical weeks of the disaster, two lessons stand out: the need to localize crisis response and the importance of a quick transition to early recovery. I led UNDP’s immediate response after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and I can see that the Government has built on many lessons learned. National institutions have insisted that this should be a Haiti-led response, from the local to the national level, and interim President Jocelerme Privert made clear from the start that early recovery was a priority. a … Read more

A changing climate throws water out of balance in Asia and the Pacific

03 Nov 2016 by Gordon Johnson, Resilience and Sustainability Team Leader, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

With a warming climate in parts of the Himalayas, melting glaciers are feeding into glacial lakes that threaten to burst at the seams. UNDP photo
Every morning I jump on the Chao Phraya Express Boat to get to work. It’s a short trip, but on yet another sultry morning in Bangkok, it’s nice to feel the breeze as we slice through the muddy waters to Thewet Pier, a short walk from my office at the United Nations. As we churn upriver, I’m often reminded of the suggestion that our planet should have been named Water instead of Earth. Nowhere is this idea more true than in Asia and the Pacific. While some 4.5 billion people make their homes on solid ground here – about 60 percent of the world’s population – it’s also home to the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and dozens of major river basins (such as the Indus, Ganges, Mekong and Yangtze) that gave rise to the varied and colourful cultures of Asia. … Read more

Latin America and the Caribbean at the forefront of climate action

28 Oct 2016 by Matilde Mordt, Team Leader, Sustainable Development and Resilience, UNDP Regional Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean

Many Latin American and the Caribbean countries will concentrate their climate actions in the agriculture sector, one of the main sources of emissions in the region. Photo: UNDP Cuba
Latin American and Caribbean countries have long been at the forefront in climate negotiations and have demonstrated their commitment to taking action. The region is diverse and hosts some of the top 10 global greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters, such as Brazil and Mexico, as well as Small Island Developing States, which are extremely vulnerable to climate change. Together, the region has put forward a wide array of proposals for action, ranging from reforestation to renewable energy to climate adaptation. Not only are they varied, but they are ambitious. An analysis undertaken by UNDP of the cornerstones of the Paris Agreement - the Nationally Determined Contributions- shows that the commitment in the region is indeed strong. As of 21 October 2016, the 32 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (out of 33) that acceded to the Agreement have also signed it; 19 of them have submitted their instruments of ratification; and 18 of these have indicated that their previously “intended” contributions will now become formal climate targets, or NDCs. … Read more

Climate risk management in Latin America and the Caribbean

12 Oct 2016 by Matilde Mordt, Team Leader, Sustainable Development and Resilience, UNDP Regional Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean

Hurricane MatthewHurricane Matthew is only the latest reminder of the relentless force of nature. In 25 years, disasters have claimed more than 240,000 lives and caused losses of more than US$39 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean. Photo: Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH
In Mayan mythology, the god Huracán originated from the heart of heaven to rule the thunder, lightning, winds and storms. For the Caribbean Tainos, Juracán represented an evil god. In 1494 Christopher Columbus mentioned in his logbook a possible tropical cyclone that surprised his fleet while sailing in the waters near Cuba. It is from this time that this phenomenon, elsewhere in the world called cyclone or typhoon, acquires the name hurricane in the Western Hemisphere. The recent passage of Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean, which has affected millions of people in the Bahamas, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and the United States, reminds us once again of the relentless forces of nature. In Haiti, in addition to the death toll that is rising, there are 750,000 people in need of assistance. In the most affected areas, villages have been shattered and agriculture devastated. Given the precarious sanitary conditions in the country, cholera threatens to resurge. The forces of heaven would perhaps have surprised pre-Columbian populations. These days, however, we can monitor and predict the course and strength of tropical storms and hurricanes, allowing us to take precautions and prepare for their arrival. Scientists tell us that the speed of the winds in hurricanes will increase with climate change. This stresses the fact that the necessary preparations should be long term and an integral element as we erect human settlements. In other words, we need to build more resilient societies. … Read more

Restoring lives and hopes for a better future in Haiti

10 Oct 2016 by Yvonne Helle, United Nations Development Programme Country Director, Haiti

Before the disaster, one million Haitians were acutely food insecure and almost half of the population was without jobs. Photo: UNDP Haiti/Guillaume Joachin
The destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti has been devastating. While the full scale of the damage and needs is still being assessed, the death toll has risen to over 300 lives lost. More than 60,000 have been displaced and are living in basic shelters, and over 25,000 houses have been destroyed or damaged. Behind these numbers are women and children who don’t have food anymore, as the little they had was lost, and who don’t have safe drinking water anymore because of overflowing water tanks, contamination from decaying animal carcasses and bodies washing out of cemeteries. Behind these numbers are young people whose future has been washed away, farmers who have lost all of their livestock, their crops and the life they had built for themselves over decades. Behind these numbers are people whose homes have been destroyed and who are now living in makeshift shelters, not able to provide for their families and depending on assistance. They urgently need our help in restoring their lives and hopes for a better future. UNDP has been working on the ground for over 40 years and will build on its experience and its network, working side by side with the Haitian people during the recovery phase. Our focus will be on strengthening national capacities to lead recovery efforts, supporting a participatory, Government-led post-disaster needs assessment, and providing immediate relief and recovery support to populations in need … Read more

El Nino happens every 3-7 years. How can Africa be better prepared?

31 Aug 2016 by Excellent Hachileka, Programme Specialist, Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change, UNDP Africa

A farmer in The Gambia shows a dry tuft of rice in a drought period. Photo: FAO
Some 60 million people’s lives have been affected by the 2015-2016 El Niño phenomenon in the Horn and Southern Africa. It was the strongest El Niño since 1950. Severe droughts have led to crop failure and food insecurity, massive livestock and wildlife deaths and loss of livelihoods. Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have all declared drought emergencies. In South Africa, only one province, Gauteng, has been spared the emergency. A total of 40 million people, or 22 percent of Southern Africa’s rural population, became food insecure. About 23 million of them needed immediate humanitarian assistance at a cost of US$2.7 billion. … Read more

Protecting (scarce) fresh water in the Maldives

15 Apr 2016 by Keti Chachibaia, Regional Technical Specialist for Climate Change Adaptation, UNDP’s Bangkok Regional Hub

man and desalination plantA local Feneka operator stands in front of the desalinization system. Photo: Keti Chachibaia/UNDP Maldives
Water is a big deal in the Maldives. The archipelago nation of 300,000 people is more water than land. But while abundant in ocean resources, the only freshwater is rainwater that is harvested in special collection tanks. But poor rainfall leaves groundwater tables low and harvesting tanks half empty. This leaves many people and communities straining resources to buy bottled water or struggling to get by. A naturally vulnerable situation is only being exacerbated by climate change, as monsoonal cycles and associated rainfall patterns shift over the Indian Ocean. Greater variations are already occurring and the Maldivians, especially in the Northern atolls, experience longer-than-usual dry seasons. As a result, the National Disaster Management Centre is regularly called upon to deliver emergency water. … Read more

Making airports fit for emergencies

27 Jan 2016 by Uthira Ravikumar, Programme Analyst, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP

 Workers perform a GARD simulation at Rafic Harriri Airport in Lebanon. Photo: UNDP Lebanon
In March 2015, two major earthquakes hit Nepal, requiring a fast and vast humanitarian response. But authorities were forced to close the only international airport that could accommodate large aircraft, as its runway was deteriorating under the weight of the large planes. Delays ensued in the arrival of both relief goods and personnel. Nepal’s situation is not unique. During major disasters, authorities and relief suppliers often face serious delays due to the strain on capacities, leaving relief supplies piling up or emergency materials and personnel held up at customs. Managing the logistics of large scale disaster response is a complex operation. It involves military and civil agencies leading an effort that includes dozens or even hundreds of stakeholders. … Read more