In light of the growing prevalence of natural disasters and increased vulnerability to climate change in the South Asia region, the European Union Delegation to Nepal hosted a regional conference on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in Kathmandu, on May 26-27.
The conference was organized in collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Centre for South Asian Studies, and DAI Europe.
The South Asian region is one of the most vulnerable to natural disasters and to the impacts of climate change. At the same time, the region is home to creative initiatives which can inspire the rest of world. With new international commitments, such as the Paris Agreements signed on April 22 2016, there is renewed momentum for new efforts. During the two-day conference, Government officials joined with experts, practitioners and journalists to discuss emergent solutions for the region.
This unique opportunity was successful in highlighting new pathways for the region. Speaking as chief guest, the Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal H.E. Mr. Bhim Rawal said that while “all of us in the region are facing one or the other type of natural disasters, there has till date, been very little concrete done to put in place a regional response mechanism and a collaborative approach. We need to redouble efforts among SAARC countries to carefully analyse, prioritize, plan and implement action plans so that there is appropriate information sharing amongst us.”
The European Union has been a long-standing partner to South Asian nations. By supporting targeted events which bring together institutes, think tanks and other platforms, South Asia as a region is able to envision change and celebrate successes. Her Excellency, Rensje Teerink, EU Ambassador to Nepal and to the SAARC said, “I am confident that the deliberations will be instrumental in designing additional DRR and Climate Change Adaptation-related projects within the larger SAARC development framework.”
The conference dwelt on common challenges faced by the region such as the tsunami in Sri Lanka and The Maldives, massive flooding in Uttarakhand in India and in Bangladesh, earthquake in Pakistan and in Nepal and the regular episodes of humanitarian disasters and massive casualties despite all efforts of the governments. Conference participants stressed the importance of shifting from a state of victimhood, into a harbour of best practices for the rest of the world.
The role of the media in reducing the risk of and responding to natural disasters was also highlighted. Journalists from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India were present at the event. Participants discussed the need to look at natural disasters as a news event, striving for humanisation, accuracy and timeliness in reporting. The media was also noted to play a role in disseminating and facilitating the implementation of strategies and programmes, as well as raising awareness among the public.
Regionally, the effects of climate change have been felt in more ways than just natural disasters. Speakers also discussed on how climate change is impacting water and food security, and how women and the poor are often most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. They shared practical examples of how these situations have been addressed and the lessons learnt along the path.
The European Union funds the Global Climate Change Alliance+ (GCCA+) benefitting South Asia, which operates on a total budget of € 300 million worldwide to help ensure that those most vulnerable to climate change are able to increase their capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change. It also takes into account climate resilience and promotes energy efficiency in its development programmes. Through its humanitarian programmes managed by the European Commission Humanitarian Office, it works actively to prevent and address disasters, including by promoting risk-reduction activities in the communities. The European Union reiterated its commitment to continue supporting climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as disaster risk reduction in South Asia and around the world.
Overall, through this event, participants proposed new ways of moving forward into an uncertain future and a changing climate. Bringing together key people from around South Asia proved to be a successful way of fostering mutual learning.