Building resilience means moving beyond the emergency room approach to one that connects the dots, say members of the UN General Assembly
As the world’s climate officials descend on Cancun today to begin addressing the causes and consequences of climate change, they would do well to recall the words of fellow government officials sitting in the UN General Assembly in New York: “we must do more to build resilience and mitigate the impact of climate-related disasters.”
In the words of the representative of Costa Rica, Eduardo Ulibarri, this means going beyond the “emergency room approach” to a comprehensive strategy that “connects the dots.”
At a meeting on sustainable development in early November, diplomats sitting on General Assembly’s Economic and Financial Committee expressed concern about climate change and its impacts: shrinking glaciers, accelerated desertification, lack of water for agriculture, large land and marine biodiversity loss, and increasingly frequent and severe weather patterns which threaten to reverse hard-won development gains.
They said frameworks and decisions adopted by UN Member States were essential for setting priorities, generating political commitment and directing necessary resources for disaster prevention and risk management. Several States voiced support for the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, endorsed by the General Assembly as a forum for discussing practical action for reducing disaster risk.
Speaking along the same lines, the representative from Nepal, Gyan Chandra Acharya, representing the group of least developed countries, underscored to the need to implement the Hyogo Framework for Action, stressing that a framework for building resilience to disasters should be a major element of long-term, economic sustainability of all countries.
The Hyogo Framework was adopted by 168 States in 2005 and is centred on five simple actions: make disaster risk reduction (DRR) a priority; know the risks and take action; build understanding and awareness; reduce risk; and be prepared and ready to act.
Disaster risk reduction is appealing to many States eager to surmount the problems of climate change adaptation. This is one issue on which Parties appear to agree.
For his part, the President of the General Assembly, Joseph Deiss of Switzerland, has committed to holding a General Assembly thematic debate on disaster risk reduction next year, on 9 February.
As summed up by the representative of Australia, Gary Francis Quinlan -- whose country co-hosted a briefing on disaster risk reduction in New York, attended by 50 States and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction Margareta Wahlström -- initiatives spearheded by UNISDR, such as the Making Cities Resilient – My City Is Getting Ready! campaign, and the safe schools and hospitals initiatives, were examples of solutions that could be enacted at the local level.
While national governments seek agreement on climate change adaptation, they may find that the solution lies in smaller steps taken by local government to reduce disaster risk, guided by the Hyogo Framework.