Malawi is party to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) whose implementation is being led by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). At the climate summit CoP26, events in Glasgow, Scotland, our environment contributor MATHEWS MALATA engaged the head of UNDRR, who is also the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, to explain more on why most countries are still not ready to actualise risk financing and other matters related to CoP 26.
What is the message you are bringing to CoP26?
We need to have a good database on loss and damage. We also need to support developing countries so that they have good risk assessment tools.
Understanding risks and managing them is so important and the third thing is that we need to have a more long-term view when we finance risks, whether they are climate risks or any other disasters, and that is the main message we are bringing to CoP26.
Do you have hope that CoP 26 will deliver substantial matters that are linked to issues that UNDRRR is implementing?
Monday was the day for adaptation, loss, and damage, and there was a vibrant atmosphere in the CoP26 venue. I think people were focused on the fact that climate adaptation, loss, and damage is becoming an ever-growing issue. And in the events that I participated in, there was a lot of advocacy around it.
Awareness is high and, importantly, the solutions were represented in terms of how we can tackle the issue of climate adaptation and loss and damage not only by the government but by the private sector, cities, communities the civil society organisation and also using innovative technology. So, I do think that the needle towards ambitious climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction has been seen at this CoP.
Risk financing and climate financing are a complex issue. How can we deal with this because most countries and financiers are hesitant to put their money in this area?
It is much less dramatic than responding to a disaster or reconstructing and recovery, but we all know that it is what we need to do, if we do not put more financing into prevention and preparedness, which means before the disaster strikes, the impact will be so large that any kind of humanitarian assistance will never be enough.
I believe that awareness exists, Covid-19 has contributed significantly to people’s awareness that if we do not prevent it, we lose lives, livelihoods, and an enormous amount of economic loss, the question is how we turn that awareness into action, and that is where we stand. We are advocating for it, and I believe that advocacy is having an impact. We shall see.
Next year CoP27 focus is on early warning systems. What is it that you want countries to achieve?
Next year, we will focus on advocating the last of the seven global targets, which is enhancing access to early warning, early action systems, multi-hazard, and more importantly, enhancing access to risk information.
Now, we have already seen a very strong surge of interest and cooperation towards enhancing early warning, early action for example the resilient early action partnership.
So, I think is an area that is catching up, more and more donor and recipient countries are understanding that anticipating and acting is what we need to do, so we are going to convey this message even more strongly next year.
Still, one-third of the globe is not covered with early warning, this is something that needs to be fixed very quickly we are working with the World Meteorological Organisation and recently we launched the centre of excellence for climate and disaster resilience, we will bring together the knowledge, the data research around climate and disaster risk reduction and I am also confident this will also contribute to enhancing target G of the Sendai Framework.
In one of the meetings, you expressed worry that most governments have not invested significantly in disaster risk reduction issues. How are you engaging the leaders?
As I mentioned yesterday, only one percent of global national budgets are spent on disaster prevention, which needs to change dramatically because we are being hit by a series of hazards with compounding effects, and we are losing so many lives, livelihoods, and economies as a result.
Governments need to put more money into prevention, which requires political will because many times if you are successful in preventing, you do not see how successful you were because you avoided a hazard becoming a tremendous disaster, and you also do not know whether the hazard will come tomorrow, in a year, or in 30 years, so you are putting money into something that may not happen, which has really kept politicians from putting more money into prevention.
So, political leaders with the ambition to save lives and livelihoods of their citizens need to put money into prevention and they need to put it in each and every sector of their country, it’s not only about disaster risk management directly into that agency so that putting the money into agriculture, education making all the policies risk-informed and for that again we need to put the money in there.
If you were to give a fair overview on how we are doing of Sendai Framework implementation, globally can you say we are on track?
We have seen that mortality in general (except Covid-19) from disasters is going down. I think that is an achievement for early warning and early action. We currently have 120 countries that have a national strategy for disaster risk reduction, which means that they have a plan and we are supporting more countries to have plans which are aligned to the Sendai Framework.
What is your message to Malawi, a country still reeling from cyclone Idai effects?
I know Malawi is focusing a lot on disaster risk reduction. We have had good conversations with the Government of Malawi, and we do think that the country needs to put more financing into disaster risk reduction and prevention.
Malawi needs to make disaster risk policy a priority. It must involve civil society, local governments, and media. But the government must lead the process as the Senda Framework says: “Risk is everyone’s business.”
The Sendai Framework can only be achieved through a whole society approach.