Monday, September 18, 2017

UNDP from Relief to Recovery- Sierra Leone

As recovery rolls out one month after the emergency response to the 14 August landslide and floods, UNDP will continue to work with the Government of Sierra Leone to move towards sustainable and inclusive risk informed development.

UNDP has provided technical and practical support to the Office of National Security (ONS), donating valuable equipment that enabled first responders in the immediate rescue efforts of emergency coordination centers. The National Security Coordinator at the ONS, Mr. Ismail S T Tarawali commended UNDP for its timely support to ONS, and highlighted past and present work that has been valuable for the country, amongst the work highlighted is that in favor of strengthening the capacity of the Disaster Management Department in the ONS, through the UNDP supported and LDCF funded “Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems Project: “UNDP has always been a dependable partner in supporting technically and logistically over the years. In post-conflict times, national security times and our response to natural and manmade disasters.” UNDP along with the World Bank have been both designated as co-leads in national recovery efforts.

What now?  
UNDP in coordination with the World Bank aims to enhance disaster risk mitigation capacities in the event of future floods and landslides. As such, the World Bank and UNDP are currently supporting a review of Sierra Leone's national a hazard profile.

In addittion, UNDP is working with national authorities in supporting the development of a website and an online Climate Information, Disaster Management and Early Warning Systems (CIDMEWS) web portal. Once fully developed, access to real-time and improved climate information will be readily available, including early warnings to end-users and disaster-prone communities. The website and CIDMEWS web portal will be launched in the coming weeks, receiving active support from the UNDP CIRDA Programme.

UNDP is also providing support in strengthening the legal frameworks that reinforce early warning systems, as well as the establishment of public and private partnerships for the dissemination of climate information.

Furthermore, UNDP is enhancing the capacities of the Sierra Leone Meteorological Agency (SLMA) by facilitating a year long meteorological training to 8 SLMA staff members at the Regional Meteorological Research and Training Institute (World Meteorological Organization Training Centre) in Nigeria. This training will be focused at strengthening the technical capacity of the SLMA staff in weather forecasting and observations, as well as in data analysis and communication.

Moving Forward
UNDP will also  provide long-term technical assistance to the Sierra Leone Environmental Protection Agency (EPA-SL)- the government entity mandated to lead the development of an environmental risk assessment and hazard identification. This will be done by welcoming an urban risk reduction expert, a debris management specialist, and a short-term geo-technical landslide expert as additional support to the EPA-SL team. In addition, the UNDP Sierra Leone Country Office will also request the deployment of a GIS expert through a standby partner.

Under national leadership, a three-fold Risk Management and Recovery Action Plan will be developed to support Government and partners make evidence-based decisions for the immediate, medium and long-term issues around settlement planning and sustainable urbanizations, as well as outline approaches to address meteorological and environmental challenges, and leverage existing work around hazard assessment for risk-informed decision making nationally.

An original version of this article was drafted by the UNDP Sierra Leone Communications Team, appearing in the Sierra Leone UNDP website and can be found here

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A perfect storm is brewing - and we can prevent it

by Pradeep Kurukulasuriya 

As we move further into the 21st century, all indications are that we will not only see increases in average temperatures, but also more frequent and more intense severe weather, changing rainfall patterns, droughts, floods and sea-level rise around the globe.
Just this month, the city of Jilin in China was severely flooded and more than 110,000 people had to be relocated, with 18 reported dead. The death toll from flooding caused by heavy rain in southern Japan has risen to at least 15. Just last week, a flood at a popular swimming hole in Arizona killed 9.
This threatens each and every single one of us. You might have read all about it in David Wallace-Wells´ recent piece in New York Magazine.
But preventing new and reducing existing climate risks in order to save lives, businesses, communities and countries, is one focus set out in the Sendai Framework, the world’s blueprint for dealing with disasters.
To understand climate change induced-disaster risk, you need the effective deployment of climate and weather monitoring technologies. The data generated from this technology needs to then be used with socio-economic, biophysical and other data to generate estimates of risks. The collection, packaging and distribution of this understanding of risk forms the backbone of early warning systems.
Taken together these “climate services” can save lives from fast-acting storms, protect livelihoods and infrastructure, and work to break the cycle of disaster-risk-and-recovery that forces developing nations to take reactive – rather than proactive – approaches when bad weather hits. This cycle means that all too often vulnerable communities need to start again from zero, infrastructure needs to be rebuilt, and funds need to be re-allocated from key areas that show promise of breaking the poverty cycle such as education and health.  
Unfortunately, this is a step that’s easier said than done. The problem does not only come from a need for better suited technologies, it also comes from challenges to maintain the equipment and the systems that need to be in place to monitor and understand risks, or even overlapping systems that don’t fit well together. Moreover, even if we to get that right, another common constraint is, for a variety of reasons, resistance to behavioral change. That can lead to knock on effects including limited information sharing, a fear of new technologies, new partnerships and new approaches.
Paradigms are not easily shifted.
This is why UNDP is supporting an ongoing dialogue on “A New Vision for Climate Services” that explores a shift in technology and a shift in approaches to ensure end-to-end climate services and their connected early warning systems are easily deployed, affordable, effective and built to last.
The creation of effective early warning systems requires connecting any number of parties and sectors to analyze and distribute actionable early warnings that vulnerable communities can use to get out of harm’s way, protect their goods, and build more climate-resilient livelihoods. The information chain for an early alert extends across National Met Authorities, Disaster Risk Agencies, various ministries, executive branches, the media, and the civil society. With improved, reliable weather information, this information chain can connect diverse sectors to inform improved disaster risk governance, and ultimately, save lives.
Decision makers can use this information to transform the community´s vulnerability into resilience by offering capacities to coping with extreme events such as invest significantly in infrastructure projects for water, energy, transport and flood mitigation. This will strengthen local economies, lower migration caused by climate change, and help build climate-smart infrastructure designed to withstand the risks due to a changing climate. Private sector enterprises can also use the information to inform their own climate adaptation strategies, while on the community level, people can develop climate-resilient strategies to improve local enterprises and protect productive assets.
What´s more investment in effective end-to-end climate services is smart business. The projected cost-benefit ratio is regularly cited as five-to-ten-fold for every dollar spent on climate services. Think about this - over the past three decades, floods and droughts have already cost Zambia $13.8 billion, equivalent to a 0.4 percent loss in annual economic growth.
This said, investments in climate services should not just fall on the public sector alone. While early warnings are an essential public good and a key component of disaster risk reduction, private enterprises certainly benefit from improved weather and climate information, which can be used to avoid crop losses and improve productivity on the farm, support energy and extractive industries, allow for weather insurance, and build responsive business prepared for the new climate realities of the 21st Century. In 2016, droughts, water scarcity and stricter environmental regulations cost businesses a reported $14 billion.
UNDP is working to connect private-sector enterprises with public-sector institutions across the globe in efforts to create integrated climate services. Think about the potential. Telecoms companies can create another revolution by sharing early warnings and improved weather information to mobile users, energy companies and decision makers can make better investments in large infrastructure projects, and, of course, vulnerable communities can make more money on the farm, save money to send their kids to school and the local clinic, and protect against the spread of vector-borne illnesses.
By supporting climate and weather intelligence among vulnerable communities, we can work to reduce the cycle of poverty.
It’s definitely a smart investment. The challenge will be creating the appropriate enabling environments and connected transformative change needed to deploy, monitor and maintain effective end-to-end climate services. In the end, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction are inextricably linked. Improved resiliency on the farm, better decision making in the capital, and improved information sharing across economic sectors, all serve to reduce risks, take proactive steps toward disaster preparation, and avoid for humans to become an endangered species. 
Pradeep Kurukulasuriya is head of climate change adaptation at the Global Environmental Finance Unit, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, United Nations Development Programme.

This piece also appeared in Thomson Reuters  under the following link