ECOSOC Addresses the Humanitarian Consequences of Climate-Induced Disasters
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16 July 2008: The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) continued its three-day Humanitarian Affairs Segment with a panel discussion on “Disaster risk reduction and preparedness: addressing the humanitarian consequences of natural disasters, including the impact of climate change.” The discussion was chaired by Council Vice-President Park In-kook (Republic of Korea) and moderated by Catherine […]

16 July 2008: The UN Economic and Social Council
(ECOSOC) continued its three-day Humanitarian Affairs Segment with a panel discussion
on “Disaster risk reduction and preparedness: addressing the humanitarian
consequences of natural disasters, including the impact of climate change.” The
discussion was chaired by Council Vice-President Park In-kook (Republic of
Korea) and moderated by Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for
Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator. Park said the
current session would contribute to the debates of various fora that are
addressing disaster preparedness and risk reduction and the impacts of climate
change. In order to respond to the increased humanitarian needs caused by
climate change, Bragg called for adaptation mechanisms that draw
on existing risk-reduction measures and increased synergies between the climate
change and humanitarian agendas.

Barbara Carby, Director, Hazard Management, Cayman
Islands, explained that the Caribbean Community had established the
Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, which focuses on mainstreaming
adaptation to climate change. She noted that throughout the region, disaster
risk-reduction experience could be used to guide climate change adaptation
processes. Madeleen Helmer, Head of the Climate Centre,
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, stated that,
despite greater certainty that climate change was happening, the disaster
management community did not know how it would manifest itself and tended to
delay action while learning about the nature of the risk. She stressed the need
for local efforts to assess and address vulnerabilities. Mostafa Mohaghegh,
Head of the Regional Office for West Asia and North Africa, International
Strategy for Disaster Reduction, highlighted that the League
of Arab States was currently negotiating the Arab Regional Framework Plan for
Climate Change, which focuses on adaptation to reduce vulnerabilities of
communities in the region, and called for the implementation of existing
successful disaster risk-reduction strategies. Walter
Kälin, Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of
Internally Displaced Persons, listed the climate-related factors that are
driving the displacement of populations worldwide, which often need
humanitarian assistance. He urged the Council not to engage in a semantic
debate on how people displaced by natural disasters should be qualified but
instead analyze the possible natural disaster-induced displacements. Kälin
called on governments, civil society and humanitarian agencies to prepare
strategies to cope with the impact of an increased number of
hydro-meteorological disasters, noting that persons displaced because of these
events did not qualify as refugees and risked “ending up in legal limbo.” He
recommended making adaptation strategies a priority and mainstreaming them into
development planning and projects. In the ensuing debate, participants
addressed the need to: make adaptation part of governmental
decision-making; take into account local expertise; enhance cooperation between
the climate change and humanitarian communities; and increase knowledge
transfer. [UN press
release
, 16 July 2008]

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