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Translating global agendas into concrete responsibilities and actions on resilience

Translating global agendas into concrete responsibilities and actions on resilience

09/02/2016

The UN Plan of Action on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) for Resilience gained strength as FAO welcomed senior representatives from UN agencies in early February. The meeting led by UNISDR focused on strategies to enable coordinated and coherent risk-management approaches to natural disaster and man-made crises.

The newly appointed Secretary-General’s Special Representative for DRR, Mr. Robert Glasser, attended the meeting and highlighted the importance of UN joint efforts in building resilience. While noting that the UN System has made enormous progress in implementing DRR approaches across agencies and integrating strategies within each agency, he stressed that it is now time to move from the planning stage towards one of action.

Glasser cited three critical ingredients for deploying an effective DRR strategy, calling for a strong leadership and guidance of the UN at the global level, coherence across the UN system, and accountability. Without those three elements, the risk is that new global pledges and agreements end up being translated by overstretched country teams. Avoiding such a fate will require additional resources, making funding a central theme, he added.

In 2012, under the leadership of the UN Office for DRR (UNISDR) a Senior Management Group of the High Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) prepared a plan, endorsed in March 2013, to guide UN agencies on integrating DRR into their strategies, operations and support to countries in a coordinated way.  Now two years later, the group has reviewed and analysed the progress made so far and discussed further requirements to revise the plan that will guide integrated UN System strategies on DRR, in pursuit of the global agendas adopted in 2015. Not only the Sendai Framework for DRR, but also the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and most recently the Paris Agreement emphasize the importance of fostering DRR and resilience.

Disaster impacts: urgency for action

The frequency and intensity of disasters have continued to rise over the last three decade, resulting in huge economic costs. Worldwide, in the decade from 2003 to 2013, disasters caused USD 1.5 trillion in economic damage.  Agriculture is one of the sectors most  affected. A recent FAO study showed that g between 2003-2013 agriculture alone absorbed on average 22 percent of the total impact of natural disasters in developing countries - much higher than previously estimated.

A large share of these damages and losses are incurred by farmers, fisher folks and forest dependent communities who lack access to insurance and financial resources needed to regain damaged livelihoods. Yet only 4.5 percent of post-disaster humanitarian aid in the 2003-2013 period, and an even lower percentage of international development aid, was targeted to agriculture.

“We have to incorporate DRR in planning and in the investments we’re making,” Glasser said, highlighting the shift in focus as one from managing emergencies to one of managing risks. “For example investments in irrigation, more drought-tolerant  crops, in social safety nets for poor communities and in alternative income sources. All these elements are fundamental to helping a farming community in a rural areas become more resilient to these very disturbing trends that we’re seeing,” he said.

Estimates suggest that investments in preventing risk will bring economic returns. For example, every USD 1 spent on DRR activities will result in savings of at least USD 4 in disaster response. “In other words, if you focus on prevention, it’s 4 times more effective, than paying for response after a disaster has happened. Most importantly, you also save countless lives in doing so,” Glasser concluded.

The UN Plan of Action therefore aims to further strengthen cooperation for more effective technical assistance to member countries on DRR, resilience building and by scaling up action across the UN system, and incorporating DRR into sectoral development planning and delivery.

"Building resilience in agriculture, fisheries and forestry is a key priority for FAO. But reaching the desired scale and comprehensiveness is only possible through interagency collaboration. The revision of the UN Plan of Action on DRR for Resilience is a critical momentum to foster action-oriented partnerships,” said Dominique Burgeon, FAO Strategic Programme Leader on Resilience. “Money invested in DRR is money well spent,” Burgeon added. “One of FAO’s objectives, as part of its resilience work, is to make good DRR practices available to the most vulnerable farmers.”

A way forward

The Senior Management Group of the HLCP agreed on several key ways to update the UN Plan of Action in line with the principles and goals of the Sendai Framework. New actions under Commitment 1 will focus on coherent system-wide policy guidance for a risk-informed implementation of the 2030 Agendas. Commitment 2 aims at high quality support by the UN to countries on DRR, enhancing the scope of the new plan to address in line with Sendai Framework natural hazards as well as technological and biological hazards. The Commitment 3 seeks that DRR remains a priority for UN organizations in support of the implementation of the Sendai Framework, including support to and operational guidance for Resident Coordinators, UN Country Teams, Regional Commissions and UN organizations to jointly deliver  at local level actions and through enhanced partnerships. The Plan is currently undergoing revision for submission to the High-Level Committee on Programmes in March 2016.

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