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Red Cross Red Crescent calls for more action on early warning and anticipation at high-level events alongside UNGA

Red Cross Red Crescent calls for more action on early warning and anticipation at high-level events alongside UNGA
22 September 2022

By the Climate Centre  

The UN says its initiative to ensure that all humanity is covered by early warning systems gained momentum with a meeting yesterday alongside the high-level week of the 77th General Assembly in New York.

The Ministerial Event on the Resolve to Act on Early Warnings for All was organized by the UN, the World Meteorological Organization, and Egypt, and gathered governments, donors, development agencies and the private sector, and also included IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain; it was hosted by the Finnish mission to the UN.

The number of recorded disasters has increased by a factor of five over the past 50 years, a WMO news release said yesterday, “driven in part by human-induced climate change and more extreme weather.”

Over the same period, it added, as “testimony to the success of early warnings, the number of lives lost decreased almost threefold … because of better weather forecasts and proactive and coordinated disaster management.”

‘We have the technological tools and
financial resources to get this done’

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas told the event: “The statistics speak for themselves. Early warning systems are a proven, effective, and feasible climate adaptation measure that save lives and money.

“We can and must reach the most vulnerable and ensure that they are translated into early action.”

Mr Chapagain – who joined a specialist panel on financing (photo) – said that “access to sustainable and flexible funding at the community level is key to translating early warning into early action to ensure it reaches those most affected by the climate crisis.”

Molwyn Joseph, an Antiguan government minister and chair of the Alliance for Small Island States, said: “We need the international community to deliver on their commitments to accelerate action on climate adaptation.

“Early warning systems save lives and prevent economic losses. All small islands should be protected by early warning systems as a matter of urgency.”

The WMO yesterday listed scaling up the Climate Risk Early Warning Systems initiative, the Systematic Observations Financing Facility, the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund as among measures needed to achieve the goal of protecting every person on Earth with early warning.

The UN’s Assistant Secretary-General for Climate Action, Selwin Hart, told the ministerial event: “One out of three persons globally, primarily in Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries, and six out of every ten persons in Africa lack access to effective early warning systems.

“This is why the Secretary-General has called for a global plan [to be rolled out by the WMO at COP27] to ensure universal coverage of Early Warning Systems within the next five years. We have the technological tools and financial resources to get this done.”

‘If not now, when?’

IFRC President Francesco Rocca, meanwhile, represented the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement at another side-event yesterday centred on the drought-related food-security crisis in the Horn of Africa (from 01:07:50).

There were actually several crises in the area, not only hunger, he told the meeting, “and they are all compounded … We are once again talking about reacting, failing on all the commitments that we adopted in the last ten years, on being anticipatory.”

Despite these commitments, we are still “very far” from being anticipatory, he added, from working at community level, from listening to the needs of the community. “If not now, when?” he asked.

The Responding to the Urgent Humanitarian Needs in the Horn of Africa high-level side-event was convened by Italy, the US, the UK and Qatar, in cooperation with Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia and OCHA.

“In addition to climate-driven emergencies, ongoing armed conflict, terrorism, inter-communal violence and disease outbreaks, including Covid-19, continue to be the key drivers of humanitarian needs in the region, displacing people by the thousand,” organizers said earlier.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the opening session of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday: “We must make sure that every person, community and nation has access to effective early warning systems within the next five years.

“It is high time to move beyond endless discussions. Vulnerable countries need meaningful action.”

IFRC President Francesco Rocca, speaking, represents the Movement at a side-event centred on the drought-related food-security crisis in the Horn of Africa, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. (Photo: IFRC)