Call to save lives and protect investments from war and disasters

13 Mar 2013

imageA Somali girl crosses a street on her way to school while soldiers of AMISOM’s Djiboutian contingent stand guard. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has recently increased its forces in Belet Weyne, some 300 kilometres northwest of capital Mogadishu, with a sizeable addition of Djiboutian troops. (Photo: Stuart Price/AU-UN IST)

Helsinki - More than 100 delegates from over 20 countries met in Helsinki today to discuss how to make sure countries around the world can better prevent the fallout of conflicts, war and disasters from reversing the gains in development, economic growth and provision of services to their people in the future global development agenda.

The United Nations-convened dialogue considered how the nature of conflicts and violence is changing.

There is now one casualty from a recognized war for nine casualties of organized crime and intra-state conflicts. Many leaders therefore believe that the new face of conflict requires a new solution and a new response from governments and the international community.

“In countries experiencing conflict there are usually severe problems in gender equality, and frequently rape and other gender-based violence is a particularly abhorrent aspect of conflict,” the Minister of International Development of Finland, Heidi Hautala, said.

“Therefore participants urged today that conflict prevention, violence reduction, peace-building and disaster resilience should be an integral part of the post-2015 development framework. This means that particular attention should be paid to combating all forms of violence against women,” Minister Hautala said.

Conflicts, wars and disasters have a detrimental impact on society, economy and environment. For example, the lengthy conflict in Somalia resulted in the loss of a generation of young people who are missing out on the opportunity to achieve higher education – this phenomenon is referred to in Somalia as a ‘national disaster.’

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 70 percent of children have no access to school because of the extended conflict.

“Conflict, violence and disasters mutually reinforce one another. It is therefore urgent to develop responses which address them at the same time within a human development framework ,” the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Associate Administrator, Rebeca Grynspan, said at the event.

“This can only be achieved if conflict prevention, combat of violence, (especially gender-based violence, together with exclusion, discrimination and inequalities), resilience-building and disaster reduction are truly integrated in the post-2015 development framework.”

Recent research concludes that countries which experienced major violence in the period between 1981 and 2005 have poverty rates 21 percent higher than those which did not experience violence. Violence claims about half a million victims each year.

The latest analysis from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) states that for the first time in history, the world has experienced three consecutive years during which the US$100 billion threshold for economic losses from disasters has been surpassed. On average, the lives of over 200 million people are disrupted by disasters each year.

The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, said: “Risk is growing faster than our capacity to manage it. Economic development must be accompanied by disaster resilience which is essential to poverty reduction.”

Participants recognized that there is no ‘silver bullet’ which reduces violence and conflict. They pointed out that a multi-dimensional, comprehensive approach is needed, spanning the areas of justice, social services, livelihoods and jobs, governance and politics.

The post-2015 development framework must also promote resilience to reduce the impact of shocks, whether man-made or natural.

“Women and children are the hardest hit by conflict, violence and disaster," said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt.

“Of the 10 countries with the highest under-five mortality rates, eight are affected by conflict. Unless we address children’s issues in the post-2015 agenda, they will continue to pay the price of conflict, violence and disaster,” Ms Brandt said.

“Violent conflict will continue to undermine the alleviation of poverty unless world leaders commit themselves explicitly to making progress in building the institutions that are required for democratic governance, sustainable peace and the rule of law,” said Judy Cheng-Hopkins, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support.

“The post-2015 development framework is an opportunity to shape a new, more prosperous and more peaceful and inclusive world. This is the future we want.”

In terms of disasters, participants pointed out that they often erode development gains and negatively impact poverty reduction and human development.

At the same time, delegates claimed, poorly managed development can in itself exacerbate disaster risk.

In the past 30 years, the world population has increased by 87 percent, but in flood-prone river basins, the increase has been 114 percent and in cyclone-exposed coastlines, the population increase has been a staggering 195 percent.

H. E. Mrs. Graça Machel, a member of the UN High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, said that “post-2015 global development initiatives should emphasize support for strategies that would help countries to overcome domestic insecurity and conflict, transform their economies, strengthen the rule of law and guarantee that all citizens have equal access to justice”…”that is why the High Level Panel members have insisted that the Post-2015 Development Agenda must recognize the central role of peace, security, and freedom from fear”.

The meeting in Helsinki is part of an extensive series of global consultations managed by the UN and its partners in which governments, civil society organizations, academia, private sector and individuals aim to replace the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015, with a new global development agenda known as “the post-2015 agenda.”

The Helsinki dialogue, hosted by the Government of Finland and co-organized by UNDP, UNICEF, the Peacebuilding Support Office and UNISDR, is the final, high-level meeting in the series for the conflict and fragility thematic area, preceded by similar gatherings in Indonesia, Liberia and Panama.

The outcomes of the dialogue are available at: www.worldwewant2015.org.

 

Contact Information

Trygve Olfarnes, UNDP Nordic Office
trygve.olfarnes@undp.org
Tel: +47 9415 6028

Shimali Senanayake, UNICEF
ssenanayake@unicef.org
Tel: +1 917 265-4516

Denis McClean, Head, UNISDR Communications
mccleand@un.org
Tel: +41 79 444 5262

Roshan Khadivi, Media Officer, UN PBSO New York
khadivi@un.org
Tel + 1 (212) 963 6147