NGOs gear up for unified disaster and climate change strategy in the Pacific

A packed room of attendees at the 2013 Joint Meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable held on July 11 in Nadi, Fiji. Delegates from governments, civil society and other development partners have agreed to speed up the process of creating a unified strategy for dealing with disasters and climate change. Photo by: UNISDR / CC BY-NC-ND

Pacific island nations are preparing to integrate their disaster risk management and climate change adaptation strategies, a move that is expected to change how millions of dollars in related aid will be dispensed in the high-risk region in the coming years.

The first-ever joint meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable in Fiji wrapped up earlier this month with delegates from governments, civil society and other development partners agreeing to speed up the process of hatching a unified strategy for dealing with disasters and climate change to be adopted by governments by 2016.

The goal is to cut redundancies in actions and policy conflicts often resulting to poor and costly programs in a region that receives more than $29 million per year in disaster management-related aid and a hunk of the over $9.3 billion annual international assistance for climate change adaptation.

With only three years to go until the action plan is implemented, aid organizations working in the region are now gearing up to merge their processes in turn.

Closer coordination

Parin Rafiei-Thompson, senior strategic adviser for food security and climate change at World Vision Australia, told Devex they are already taking steps towards a more integrated regional approach in helping Pacific countries stem the threats of disasters and climate change.

The organization’s various divisions in Pacific are starting to working closely with each other, Australia and East Timor for instance, to ensure that their action plans are aligned. Still, more work needs to be done.

“On the international level, World Vision’s climate change and disaster risk reduction communities have to collaborate more and find synergies in field programming,” added Rafiei-Thompson.

Another big iNGO, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, is “promoting the integration of climate change aspects into existing national society programming, disaster risk reduction, health, livelihood, sheltering and others,” said Ysabeau Rycx, regional disaster management coordinator.

Rycx told Devex that Red Cross Red Crescent national societies in the region will aim to compliment the work of governments and other organizations in polishing and implementing the groundbreaking strategy: “What we are focusing on … is the importance of regional frameworks adding value through supporting collaboration and coordination between countries and the essential role of the Red Cross and other civil society actors at the community level.”

Near a consensus with civil society, governments

The combination of disaster risk management and climate change adaptation processes of both civil society and governments in Pacific will be a major undertaking.

A spokeswoman from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community was however confident that a consensus will be reached by early next year on the details of the strategy and its execution due to widespread support and “no real contentious issues.”

The only challenge is ensuring that all the different aspects of disaster risk management and climate change response are reflected and taken into account in the new strategic framework, said Cristina Casella, disaster risk management and climate change policy adviser.

Casella called on donors and development partners to contribute more resources in supporting the formulation of the strategy and, like World Vision and the IFRC, to pursue more integrated methods to disaster risk management and climate change adaptation within their own programs and projects.

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About the author

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    Johanna Morden

    Johanna Morden is a community development worker by training and a global development journalist by profession. As a Devex staff writer based in Manila, she covers the Asian Development Bank as well as Asia-Pacific's aid community at large. Johanna has written for a variety of international publications, covering social issues, disasters, government, ICT, business and the law.