Photo / Neil Palmer (CIAT)
By David Singh
GENEVA, 17 September 2012
- The top UN disaster risk reduction official on Friday urged African governments to acknowledge risk reduction as the first line of defense against the impacts of climate change.
Margareta Wahlström, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction said, "Africa has got to use its existing mechanisms, especially the African Programme of Action for Disaster Risk Reduction to advance technology, learning and applications in climate risk management.
Disaster reduction and climate change adaptation financing should be guided by the knowledge that effective development investments reduce disaster risk", Wahlström told participants at the closing session of the 14th regular session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) held from 10-14 September in Arusha, Tanzania.
Last Friday, following three days of discussions, environment ministers and representatives of over 40 African governments adopted a set of programmes and decisions that could significantly boost sustainable development on the continent.
The Arusha Declaration on Africa's Post Rio+20 Strategy for Sustainable Development stresses the need for Africa to capitalize on opportunities presented by the outcomes of Rio+20 principally through a common voice and full engagement in the implementation of the document adopted earlier in June entitled "The future we want".
Wahlström stressed that disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation were central elements of sustainable development as they shared common causes and goals: reduction of the vulnerability and exposure of communities and nations. "Recognizing and building links between them is effective and efficient development", she said.
The UN Special Representative reminded participants that Rio+20 calls upon governments to accelerate implementation of the first global disaster risk reduction plan, the Hyogo Framework for Action; to integrate disaster risk reduction into policies, plans programmes and budgets; to integrate risk reduction and climate change adaptation into public and private investments; and to undertake comprehensive risk assessments as well as strengthen disaster reduction instruments.
Observing that over the past decade, continental Africa has been the second-fastest-growing region in the world, Wahlström noted that "with African economies on the move, now is an opportune moment to optimize commitment to sustainable development.
She further reminded participants that that access to information on natural hazards, monitoring and early warning systems along with sound vulnerability assessments are a prerequisite for climate change adaptation planning.
Wahlström stressed that what is needed now is more focused technical work at senior levels in governments and institutions. "Climate change adaptation financing should be guided by development investment knowledge that reduces disaster risk", she stated.
AMCEN regular sessions are held every two years. The 14th ministerial conference was preceded by an expert meeting, which discussed issues related to the outcomes of Rio +20, including major programmes, strengthening of UNEP, AMCEN related issues, Biodiversity, Climate change etc. UNEP provides the AMCEN secretariat.