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Recent global agreements give small-island and land-locked developing countries the backing they need to better prepare for disasters

09/03/2016 Putrajaya, Malaysia

A series of recent global agreements have left governments of small-island developing states (SIDS) and land-locked developing countries (LLDCs) better placed to implement risk reduction strategies to deal with climate change and natural disasters, an FAO convened meeting heard today.

While typhoons, floods, earthquakes and other disasters will continue to plague some of Asia-Pacific’s most vulnerable countries, a convergence of international instruments has emerged to help small-island and landlocked countries become more resilient to disasters.

The high-water mark of this convergence became evident last December with the Paris Agreement (COP21) to limit global average temperatures to below 2°C and another breakthrough a year earlier, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction to mitigate loss of life, livelihoods and health resulting from natural disasters. Both of these international commitments are underpinned by the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda – approved by the United Nations last September.

Eighteen small-island and landlocked countries are participating in a consultation to discuss the recent endorsements at a meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia, convened by FAO and co-hosted with the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI).

“This meeting couldn’t have come at a more important time,” said Dan Gustafson, FAO Deputy Director General, during opening remarks. “I strongly welcome the 2030 Agenda, in part, because I believe that it acknowledges the crucial role that resilience plays in achieving universal food security and, by extension, sustainable development.”

At the core of this Agenda are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including specific goals on achieving zero hunger at the global level with (SDG2) and accelerated action to combat the drivers and impacts of climate change (SDG13).

“Food security and nutrition, disaster risk and climate change are closely interlinked. Cyclone, flood, drought and other hazards can lead to the destruction of crops, livestock, fisheries and other productive assets,” said Gustafson. “These events interrupt food supply, reduce income, deplete savings, erode livelihoods and exacerbate the risk of food insecurity and malnutrition. They can wipe out decades of hard-won gains to improve development and food security outcomes for our communities.”

Many SIDS and LLDCs in Asia and the Pacific are at high risk from the impacts of natural disasters and other hazards because the coping strategies that might otherwise be available elsewhere are unavailable or inappropriate.

FAO has been working with our member countries to ensure that resilience is a critical element of the response to recent crises in SIDS and LLDCs. For example, in response to last year’s earthquake in Nepal FAO provided emergency provisions supplemented with action to strengthen resilience including supporting improved early warning systems for landslides and measures to mitigate future land subsidence. In Vanuatu, FAO in collaboration with the Belgian Government has implemented a range of activities to enhance resilience in response to cyclone Pam including training on food preservation and nutrition in crisis situations as well as the provision of livelihoods measures such as urban gardens and nurseries.

FAO disaster risk reduction experts are confident that complementary indicators for these three instruments (SDG, Paris Agreement and Sendai) will emerge and give SIDS and LLDCs the added support they need to properly implement and monitor their policies.

While recognizing there is still much work to do, the meeting recognized that, taken together, these instruments put forward an aspirational global blueprint for inclusive, resilient and, ultimately, sustainable development based on countries mutual agreement to act independently, but in a coordinated manner and towards common targets.

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