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

Now is the time to climate proof Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19 Oct 2016 by Armen Grigoryan, Team Leader, Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP Europe and Central Asia

Only 40 cents in every US$100 spent on aid goes to disaster risk reduction, yet disasters have cost developing countries a total of US$1 trillion over the last 20 years. UNDP Photo
In this blog series, UNDP experts share their perspectives in the lead-up to the next climate summit, COP22, taking place in November in Marrakech, Morocco. Two years ago I remember watching catastrophic rains swallow entire swathes of land in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia. Most of northern Bosnia was flooded. Thousands of people lost their homes. And in Serbia, the damage was estimated at 1.5 billion euros. The following year, it was Albania’s turn, then Tajikistan followed suit with the worst mud flows the country has ever seen. Finally, this summer, a thunderstorm dropped 93 litres of rain for every square metre of the capital, Skopje, within the space of a single night. homes. And in Serbia, the damage was estimated at 1.5 billion euros. The following year, it was Albania’s turn, then Tajikistan followed suit with the worst mud flows the country has ever seen. Finally, this summer, a thunderstorm dropped 93 litres of rain for every square metre of the capital, Skopje, within the space of a single night. Whether we are talking about drought, failing crops, rising temperatures or the resurgence or appearance of new diseases, the list of possible climate catastrophes is long. … Read more

Unlocking climate action: Why cities are at the forefront

18 Oct 2016 by Bahareh Seyedi, Policy Specialist, Climate Change, Energy and Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP

By 2060, more than a billion people will be living in cities in low-lying coastal zones, the vast majority in developing countries. Photo: Igor Rugwiza/MINUSTAH
Tehran, Managua, Vancouver, Manila, Montreal, Ouagadougou, New York: seven cities I love and have had the pleasure of living in! Each is rich in beauty, history, and culture, and has its own unique urban characteristics. But there is a shared threat faced by these cities that if left unaddressed has the ability to jeopardize their entire existence. The threat of climate change. From droughts, storms, and heat waves, to floods and hurricanes, these cities are all exposed to risks from climate hazards and natural disasters in one way or another. My hometown, Tehran, is at serious risk of water scarcity, with its major reservoirs reaching critically low levels in the past couple of years due to reduced rainfall and increase in temperature. … Read more

The nexus of climate change and conflict in the Arab region

12 Oct 2016 by Kishan Khoday, Regional Team Leader, Climate Change, DRR and Resilience, UNDP Regional Hub for Arab States

Conflict and climate change are major drivers of displacement in Syria and elsewhere in the Arab region. UNHCR photo
Alongside the daily barrage of rockets and gunfire facing the Arab region is a more insidious but perhaps no less important foe – climate change. Climate change and conflict both have serious consequences and their convergence, particularly in fragile states, that has now arisen as a major concern. Leading UNDP’s climate change action in the Arab region, I see first-hand how this convergence is creating new forms of social vulnerability and reshaping the prospects for peace. The Arab region was the birthplace of agricultural civilization and for thousands of years has been able to cope with risks from climatic hazards. But climate change is now happening at a pace unlike anything before, stretching the ability of societies and governments to cope. The evidence shows that the region may well be in the midst of a 25-year climate change-induced mega drought, equal in strength only to historic droughts one thousand years ago that led to major civilizational shifts. Already the world’s most water insecure region, climate change is expected to see temperatures rise faster here than the global average, making parts of the region uninhabitable by mid-century. Unless actions are taken, impacts will be felt in loss of agricultural livelihoods, high unemployment, mass displacement, and resource conflicts. … 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

Capacity development – the only sustainable way to implement the Paris Agreement

06 Oct 2016 by Frederik Tue Staun, Programme Analyst, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Team, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

Capacity development is no longer limited to human resource development but covers issues of national ownership, policy-level impacts, and sustainability. Photo: UNDP
On September 22, 2016, Uganda became one of the first African countries to ratify the Paris Agreement - a milestone that made me reflect on the two years I spent in the country as the UNDP Climate Change focal point, but most of all, it made me proud on behalf of my former colleagues and tireless climate champions working in Uganda. When I look back at my time with UNDP Uganda, our work on climate change mitigation and low carbon capacity development stands out. The Low Emission Capacity Building (LECB) Project was one of the first projects to focus on low carbon development in the country and more specifically aiming at strengthening technical and institutional capacities at the country level and enable national decision makers, public institutions and private sector to holistically address climate change and decouple economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions. When the Government of Uganda launched the LECB project in 2013 in Kampala, climate change mitigation and low carbon development were very new concepts and created confusion and many questions as climate change mitigation broadly was perceived as the responsibility of developed countries. … Read more

How the Montreal Protocol can complement the Paris Agreement and help fight climate change

04 Oct 2016 by By Jacques Van Engel, Director of the Montreal Protocol / Chemicals Unit, UNDP

Through initiatives like this CFC refrigerator exchange programme in Rio de Janeiro, UNDP has helped 120 countries eliminate 67,870 tonnes of ozone-depleting substances each year. Photo: Vanderlei Almeida/UNDP Brazil
Agreed in 1987, the Montreal Protocol has led to a massive reduction in the use of ozone-depleting chemicals, such as the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and the hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). It has also, famously, helped begin the process of closing the ozone hole over Antarctica. Now, efforts are underway to expand the Montreal Protocol and further protect the environment and help avert climate change. … Read more