SDG Knowledge Weekly: Looking towards Humanitarian Efforts, Climate Impacts and Adaptation in 2019
UN Photo/Kibae Park
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Priorities for aid in the coming year include readiness, the importance of giving "money, not stuff," and the need for "home-grown" aid that balances the role of international organizations.

One expert laments that SDG target 8.7 “is slipping away from us,” ahead of the HLPF's review of SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) in July 2019.

Even as humanitarian aid budgets are already stretched, climate impacts also appear to be pushing the limits of public spending.

This edition of the SDG Knowledge Weekly reviews priorities for aid in the coming year and efforts towards SDGs on humanitarian issues such as modern slavery, the subject of SDG target 8.7. We also summarize articles and knowledge products on climate adaptation, impacts and finance released around the Katowice Climate Change Conference at the end of 2018.

The 2030 Agenda asserts that humanitarian crises threaten to reverse development progress (paragraph 14), calls for the empowerment of vulnerable people and resolves “to remove obstacles and constraints, strengthen support and meet the special needs of people living in areas affected by complex humanitarian emergencies” (paragraph 23). In a set of views of development practitioners and experts on aid priorities for 2019, collated by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, they highlight needs from famine to armed conflict to migration, and relationships among these issues. Readiness will be a key theme of the coming year as agencies gear up for potential outbreaks of disease and work to build climate resilience. Multiple heads of humanitarian organizations point to concerns relating to Ebola, the “man-made disaster” in Yemen, and refugee crises in the Americas, Southeast Asia, and Central Africa. They call for better understanding of root causes, political will, and stable funding to address the matters.

IRIN News’s Ben Parker says that humanitarian principles are “under attack” by pointing to the bombings of hospitals and targeting of aid workers in conflict zones. He highlights the need for new sources of finance, and the importance of “giving money, not stuff,” noting that fears of cash being spent unwisely by recipients have proven unfounded. Parker also calls for localized, “home-grown” aid that balances the role of international organizations with that of grassroots NGOs and local networks, noting barriers that restrict funding to particular entities (such as the European Commission’s humanitarian aid policy that only permits funding EU entities).

Looking particularly at efforts to end modern slavery (SDG target 8.7), Reuters summarizes goals for the year and identifies new ways of combatting the problem. The article notes that new technological developments, such as satellite imagery and blockchain, are increasing transparency, while growing regulatory and consumer pressure are helping to keep supply chains free from slavery. However, it acknowledges that some nations are attempting to downplay the issue; in more authoritarian regimes, “modern slavery does not matter.” Thus, the article concludes, consumers must better understand the issue and challenge their governments to take action.

Jennifer Morris, CEO of the Walk Free Foundation, laments in an op-ed on Impakter that SDG target 8.7 “is slipping away from us.” Morris clarifies that the term “modern slavery” refers not only to forced labor, but also human trafficking, debt servitude, forced marriage and child labor. Current data, she notes, estimate that over 40 million people currently live in modern slavery, and nearly three quarters are women and girls. She describes modern slavery as a “dark by-product of globalization” where demand for cheap goods and services has spiked. Fortunately, she says, efforts such as the Global Slavery Index and policies such as the UK’s Modern Slavery Act are shining a spotlight on the issue.

In December the UN University (UNU) launched an online dashboard that provides a graphic visualization of trends in modern slavery, and offering additional resources to help combat the issue. SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) will be under review at the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) when it convenes in July 2019.

Even as humanitarian aid budgets are already stretched, climate impacts also appear to be pushing the limits of public spending. A report by Christian Aid published in late December 2018 identifies the ten most destructive weather events of the year—inclusive of hurricanes, fires, drought and floods—each of which caused over US$1 billion in damages. The publication notes that floods in Kerala, India, displaced more than one million people, forcing them into camps (and making them reliant on humanitarian assistance).

An interactive article in The Guardian, published shortly after the close of the Katowice Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 24), visualizes the human cost of 2018’s disasters. It notes that due to extreme weather, “approximately 5,000 people have died and 28.9 million have needed emergency assistance or humanitarian aid.”

These extreme events highlight the need for finance around climate adaptation, which Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) explores in a report titled, ‘Understanding and Increasing Finance for Climate Adaptation in Developing Countries.’ CPI cites a global statistic from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) which estimates that US$1.5 trillion in economic damages were caused by natural hazards triggered by climate change from 2003-2013. It notes that measurement and disclosure of climate risk is needed to inform strategies and investment decisions, but there is little consensus on what exactly constitutes “adaptation finance.” CPI further notes barriers in terms of local context, business models and internal capacity that prevent or slow the adoption of best practices in climate adaptation, and highlights the role of domestic public actors in filling policy and measurement gaps.

A write-up on Devex describes efforts to mobilize finance for sustainable climate adaptation, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and Pacific Island states. The article notes that LMICs and island nations often lack the capacity to become accredited to receive international climate funds (and that such funds are insufficient to fully meet adaptation needs), but that adaptation finance from the private sector is low and rarely coordinated with governments. However, domestic initiatives offer hope, with the authors flagging India’s National Adaptation fund for Climate Change and the Philippines’s People’s Survival Fund.

Additional issues of the SDG Knowledge Weekly can be found here.


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