Story | 06 Jun, 2016

Building bridges for better cooperation

In light of the growing severity of natural disasters and increasing vulnerability to climate change in South Asia, the European Union Delegation to Nepal hosted a regional conference on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in Kathmandu. The conference was organised in collaboration with IUCN, Centre for South Asian Studies and DAI Europe.

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Photo: © IUCN/Amit Poudyal

South Asia is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and impacts of climate change. With new international commitments, such as the Paris Agreements signed on April 22, 2016, there is renewed momentum for more initiatives that target key environmental issues in the region. During the two-day conference, government officials joined with experts, practitioners and journalists to share emergent solutions.

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 even though “all of us in the region are facing different kinds of natural disasters, till date very little has been done to put a concrete regional response mechanism and a collaborative approach in place. We need to redouble efforts among SAARC countries to carefully analyse, prioritise, 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 institutions, civil society, think tanks and other actors, South Asia as a region will be 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 Conference deliberations will be instrumental in designing additional DRR and Climate Change Adaptation-related projects within the larger SAARC development framework”.

The conference dwelt on challenges faced by the region such as the tsunami in Sri Lanka and The Maldives, flooding in Uttarakhand in India and Bangladesh, earthquakes in Pakistan and Nepal, and the various other humanitarian disasters that have resulted in massive casualties, despite efforts from 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 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 and strive for humanisation, accuracy, and timeliness in reporting. The important role of media in disseminating and facilitating implementation of strategies and programmes, as well as raising awareness among the public, was also noted. 

Regionally, the effects of climate change have been felt in more ways than just natural disasters. Speakers also discussed impacts of climate change on water and food security, and the vulnerability of women and the poor to climate change impacts. They shared practical examples of how these situations have been addressed and lessons learnt.

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 its effects. It also takes into account climate resilience and promotes energy efficiency in its development programmes. Through its humanitarian programmes managed by the European Community Humanitarian Office, it works actively to prevent and address disasters, including by promoting risk-reduction activities in 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.