UN: Failure of governance at the heart of global crises

UN: Failure of governance at the heart of global crises
23 June 2020

The UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, last week said there is “one crucial condition that must be met before we address any of the other drivers of risk, and that is good governance.

“Sound and inclusive strategies for disaster risk reduction coherent with climate action,” she added, “can be the foundation for good governance in every country and every city,” with a decade left before the Sendai Framework deadline.

Speaking in a global webinar on tie-ins between work on climate resilience and recovery from Covid-19, Ms Mizutori said that with the pandemic dominating the headlines “we could get the false impression that the climate emergency is no longer of great concern to the world.”

This was “understandable given the scale of death, infection and economic loss that coronavirus has inflicted…particularly on the most vulnerable countries, and the poor and the marginalized people.

“Anyone concerned with disaster management can be forgiven for expressing their despair at the inadequate efforts made to prepare for this pandemic in many countries, despite countless warnings.

“Unfortunately, we shouldn’t be too surprised, if we just think of the degree of negligence that we have been observing painfully on other issues of equal global magnitude.”

There had been, for example, a “distinct lack of action” by states in reducing emissions to meet the Paris Agreement, “again in spite of countess warnings.”

                                        ‘How do we seize the moment?’ 

Ms Mizutori said she was now encouraging Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies to engage with their national Sendai Framework focal points to ensure strategies for its implementation were “robust, inclusive and far-reaching”.

Last Monday’s webinar – Changing the Trajectory: Integrated Resilience Thinking and Covid-19 Recovery Towards 1.5°C – was jointly hosted by the Permanent Missions of Belize and Bhutan as chairs respectively of the Alliance of Small Island States and the UNFCCC’s group of Least Developed Countries, as well as the UK Permanent Mission, the IFRC, and the UN Foundation; it was moderated by the Climate Centre and facilitated by the IFRC secretariat.

In opening remarks, Ambassador Lois M. Young, the Permanent Representative of Belize, pointed out that SIDS and LDCs were among those countries most severely impacted by Covid-19.

In addition to immediate humanitarian needs like medical supplies and equipment, she said, the crisis had “also created widespread socio-economic challenges due to loss of fiscal revenue, and has destroyed livelihoods for millions.”

In addition, in many parts of the world, it comes “at a time when we must also be braced for the worst impacts of climate change.”

‘Existential danger’

The webinar event aimed not only to shed light on current challenges, Ambassador Young added, “but also explore solutions and the support available to address these challenges.

“While we acknowledge the general support of partners provided so far, the reality of the situation is it still falls short of our current needs. We need new and additional support at the scale required to provide long-term sustainable solutions…”.

Ambassador Doma Tshering, the Permanent Representative of Bhutan, said Covid-19 “is indeed sprawling across the LDCs at a rapid pace. And current figures only project the tip of the iceberg.

“The impacts our countries are facing are unprecedented, straining the basic fabric of our economies.”

She added that: “While grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, we must not forget the omnipresent existential danger posed by climate change – a slower-moving yet more ominous threat to our planet…”.

Arguing for a “better, smarter and resilient” world post-Covid, Ambassador Tshering presented a six-point recovery agenda encompassing net-zero emissions by 2050, resilient infrastructure, “a comprehensive crisis-mitigation and resilience-building mechanism for LDCs and SIDS,” redesigned cities, massive reforestation, and sustainable production and consumption.

Climate agenda

Ambassador Jonathan Allen of the UK Permanent Mission to the UN said Covid-19 presented “additional health and humanitarian challenges which only exacerbate [existing] vulnerabilities, so it is also clear, sadly, that there’ll be significant long-term socio-economic implications, and our task is to manage those in the best way we can.”

Ambassador Allen said the UK would use its presidencies of COP 26 and the G7 to lead the “international effort to address climate change and drive a green and resilient global recovery, supporting the most vulnerable and leaving no one behind.”

The UK administration was emphasizing “the importance of an international approach to the crisis…on the basis that it’s only by working together internationally, globally, that any of us – nationally and individually – are going to be able to recover as quickly as we want.”

Taking part in last week’s webinar were (alphabetically) the Permanent Missions of Bangladesh, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Vanuatu, as well as senior representatives from UNDP, the UNFCCC, the World Bank, and the World Resources Institute.

The IFRC Permanent Observer to the UN, Richard Blewitt, said the key issue now was “to make sure that the climate agenda really resurfaces [post-Covid]”.

He asked: “How do we seize the moment and really influence policy-makers and those that hold the resources to do the right thing, at scale, so as not to end up with a larger humanitarian crisis in a year’s time?

“We need to work in solidarity, mindful of the gap between the various dialogues and what’s actually happening on the ground with vulnerable and oppressed people.”

Even as the 2020 hurricane season gets underway in the Caribbean, and with the ongoing need to observe Covid-19 precautions, the Bahamas Red Cross is helping people in fishing communities like this one near Freeport get back on their feet after Hurricane Dorian less than a year ago. A webinar jointly hosted by the Alliance of Small Island States and the IFRC and others last week heard Covid-19 had arrived just as many parts of the world “brace for the worst impacts of climate change”. (Photo: Bahamas Red Cross via IFRC)