Remarks by Ad Melkert, UN Under-Secretary General and Associate Administrator of UNDP ECOSOC Luncheon on Climate-related conflict and the Millennium Development Goals
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to have the opportunity to join this important discussion on climate-related conflict and Millennium Development Goals.
Climate change stands as a roadblock in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. It threatens the chance of millions in Africa, Asia and Central and South America to escape poverty. Those with little responsibility for the ecological debt face the most severe consequences from reduced agricultural productivity, heightened water insecurity, increased exposure to extreme weather, the collapse of ecosystems, and amplified health risks. The Human Development Report 2007/2008 showed for example, that children in Ethiopia exposed to a drought in early childhood are 36 percent more likely to be malnourished five years later.
Climate change is not only an environmental problem but also a development and security challenge. Climate change exacerbates already existing inequalities that in turn can result in an increase in conflict and contribute to threats to global stability and security. Water scarcity, declines in food production, increases in storms and floods, and migration make the Millennium Development Goals much harder to reach for 2.6 billion people living on less than $2 a day. The examples of Sudan, Chad and Kenya speak for themselves. Desertification and drought have heightened competition between settled cultivators and nomadic pastoralists over land thereby reducing the availability of key natural resources, leading to serious violent conflicts.
How do we minimize the potential economic and social stresses that may trigger such conflicts? We need to ‘climate proof’ development and focus more on disaster prevention. This means seizing the unprecedented opportunity of putting the needs of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at the centre of development. Sustainable human development must be our moral compass and practical goal.
Let me offer three possible type of intervention that could contribute to the debate on reducing climate-related conflict.
First, climate resilient development requires systematic changes to planning and practice at the national and international levels. This means integrating conflict/climate related disaster reduction into national development strategies and institutions. For example, the Government of Indonesia has taken up the challenge and enacted the National Disaster Management Law which is the regulatory framework for managing climate risk. With the support of UNDP, the Government has developed a National Climate Change Action Plan which is focused on the poorest and most vulnerable. The plan includes improved disaster prevention, protection against decreasing nutrition and the spread of dengue fever and infrastructure investments in water supply and flood management.
UNDP with support from Japanese funds will continue to provide support to high risk African countries to place climate change adaptation at the centre of national poverty reduction efforts by enhancing government capacity across line ministries, integrating the development and economic implications of climate change in poverty reduction strategies and supporting concrete actions and projects on the ground.
At the international level MDG 8 requires a global partnership for development which should include climate change. Climate change is a global challenge that requires a global response. It heightens the need for donors to honour their development assistance commitments and to provide additional resources for adaptation. Development assistance to reduce the risks of disaster will deliver 7 times higher returns than post-disaster relief. In other words every US$1 invested in pre-disaster risk management in developing countries can prevent losses of $7 (HDR 2007/8).
Second, there needs to be more focus on the local governance and capacity development of natural resource systems. The institutionalized systems of rights and claims will determine entitlements to resources, such as water and energy services. UNDP projects in the water sector, such as the National Integrated Water Resources Management and Water Efficiency Plan in Kazakhstan, aim at developing integrated water resources management strategies that set national water use levels within the limits of ecological sustainability and provide a coherent planning framework for all water resources.
At UNDP we believe that the world has a responsibility to reduce global emissions as well as providing clean and affordable energy to 2.6 billion global citizens that currently don’t have it. For instance, UNDP has been supporting the Economic Community of West African States to establish and implement their regional energy access policy, and implementing energy access projects that directly benefit local communities and stability.
Third, development interventions should promote gender equality as a key to reducing the impact of climate change. While disasters affect whole communities, women often the bear the brunt. The death rate from the cyclone and flood in Bangladesh in 1991 was reportedly five times higher amongst women than men (HDR 2007/8) as women had not been taught to swim. Gender considerations must therefore be integrated into disaster risk reduction interventions. In Mexico after Hurricane Isidore struck, UNDP began a programme to support the capacity of indigenous groups to address disaster risk and gender inequality. The programme now operates in the 6 southern states of Mexico in 500 villages and 60 municipalities. Women in the rural indigenous communities now get more timely information about how to reduce vulnerability in their housing and livelihoods, early warning, life and asset protection and reconstruction alternatives.
Finally I would like to mention that the topic of today’s discussion is a relatively new one for UNDP. In order to more clearly understand the interface between conflicts and disasters, including climate related disasters and how conflicts can lead to disasters and vice versa, we have been undertaking a research project (funded by Canada and Norway). The project has been analyzing and comparing experiences in nine case study countries (Sri Lanka, Sudan, Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, Bolivia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia) and is developing a methodology that will guide UNDP country offices on how to develop better programmes in disaster-conflict interface contexts. We hope that learning from the good - and less good - experiences we will be able to scale-up support to developing countries to link policies with investments in more effective ways than in the past and ensure greater integration of conflict and disasters risks in development programmes.Climate change requires us to ‘do development differently’ if the MDGs are to be achieved. I call on all of you here today to leave this room with a greater commitment to climate-related conflict prevention. As we all know: ‘prevention is better than the cure’.
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