Pacific goes to work early on disaster risk reduction

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon helped plant these mangrove shoots on Tarawa, an atoll in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati following discussions with local people about the effects of climate change on this low-lying land.
By Andrew Mcelroy

GENEVA, 4 July 2013 - Every day the Pacific wakes up and goes to work ahead of the rest of the world and next week it will do the same as it kicks off a series of regional consultations that will shape the successor agreement to the Hyogo Framework for Action after 2015.

The Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable will seek to move the region closer to a strategy that integrates the two elements into an overarching policy framework.

The 8-11 July conference, hosted by the Fijian government, will focus on strengthening resilience to disasters, protecting development gains and adapting to climate change -- all issues that affect millions of people and billions of dollars worth of investment in the Pacific.

It is a big opportunity for this community of predominantly small island states to demonstrate to the rest of the world the true value of leadership and investment in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

The recently-released UN Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction carried a similar message saying: "Because of a combination of high risks and low resilience, small island developing states are where investments in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are likely to reap the greatest benefits."

The Report, which is entitled "From Shared Risk to Shared Value: The Business Case for Disaster Risk Reduction", says that the world's small island developing states, including the Pacific nations, collectively contribute less than 1 per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions.

"However, climate change is likely to disproportionately increase their disaster risk, due to sea level rise and associated flood and storm surge hazard, increasing cyclonic wind intensity, erosion, saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers and worsening water scarcity and drought," the Report says.

"The effects of disaster loss are amplified because hazards may affect their entire territory and economy."

The current drought in the Marshall Islands is a stark warning to other Pacific islands of what could become a more recurrent disaster if drought mitigation measures are not integrated in national planning and risk assessment.

At the recent Asia launch of the Global Assessment Report, Lead Author Andrew Maskrey said: "The key word is urgency. The environment is changing faster than you can adapt, so now we have new hazards, things people have never experienced before."

The Fiji Platform and Roundtable will be followed next year by the Third Conference on Small Island Developing States in Apia that will include disaster risk reduction as a main feature.
Regional Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction take place from Africa to the Pacific Regional Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction take place from Africa to the Pacific.
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