'Spaghetti junction' no more: Pacific unifies disaster risk and climate change strategy

Integrated water resource manager Vinesh Kumar (right) shows Margareta Wahlström (left), United Nations special representative of the Secretary-General for disaster risk reduction how a water monitoring station on the Nadi river works and serves as an early warning system in Fiji. Wahlström is in the country for the first joint meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable. Photo by: UNISDR / CC BY-NC-ND

Pacific leaders, community delegates, donors and other development partners are converging in Nadi, Fiji from July 8-11 for the first joint meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable in a bid to create a more holistic approach to strengthening resilience to natural disasters in a region of mostly small island states at risk of the effects of climate change.

The 2013 United Nations Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction published last May warned of a spike in sea levels and resulting floods and storms facing low-lying islands in the Pacific, which include the drought-stricken Marshall Islands.

This week’s discussions will galvanize the creation of a unified regional strategy for disaster risk management and climate change adaptation aimed at curbing the impacts of climate-related disasters cited in the report, as part of the new strategy that will replace the Hyogo Framework for Action and the post-2015 development agenda.

The consensus among concerned parties is that the approach of separating disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation funding has been ineffective and inefficient, and a new kind of action is needed to maximize the results of development funding on the ground.

“It’s not an issue of a lack of finance. The Pacific receives more climate financing than Africa, but the systems that are in place are unable to bring the benefits to the people because of the multiplicity of processes and bureaucracy, among other things,” UNISDR Asia-Pacific chief Jerry Velasquez told Devex from Fiji.

Velasquez lauded the Pacific region for “shepherding the rest of the world” in terms of streamlining disaster risk management and climate change adaptation processes, and hopes the ongoing meeting will promote the Pacific’s ownership and understanding of its own strategy.

Pacific leaders attending the event have made a strong case for donors to integrate their processes when the region adopts the more holistic strategy by late 2014.

“In terms of disaster risk reduction and climate funding we can’t afford to have two separate cycles. We need to break it down into one process and then it can become cross-cutting support integrated within a proper development program for the country,” said Cook Islands Minister for Finance and Economic Management Mark Brown, who likened past financing mechanisms to a “spaghetti junction.”

Brown added that Pacific leaders are working with development partners to better simplify funding systems.

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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.