Building Resilience in the face of mounting risks in the Arab Region

16 Mar 2015

Floods_Lebanon droughts and floods in North Lebanon

Much has been said about the rolling back of development results and vulnerability of communities in parts of the Arab region because of violent conflicts, but less has been said about the converging driver of change that communities face from natural disasters and the risks from climate change.

Debates at the recent World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan highlighted that in the 21st century, development will need to be increasingly resilient to shocks and crises, and address the multi-dimensional nature of risk.

This holds special relevance to the Arab region, as the most food-import dependent and water-insecure region on the planet today.

Many communities face the convergence of, on the one hand conflict and one of the largest mass movements of forced migrants and refugees in modern history, and on the other more frequent and severe droughts, land degradation and food and water insecurity. Added to this is the exacerbating force of climate change.

Out of a population of 357 million about 150 million in the region are exposed to drought risks. The drought and famine in the Horn of Africa demonstrated the serious impact upon societies. In Somalia, the famine killed between 50,000-100,000 people and displaced 4 million people.

In Syria, the drought of 2006-2010 decimated the livelihoods of more than 20% of the rural population unleashing a wave of internal migrations and exacerbating many social tensions.

A multi-dimensional perspective is important not only to understand the nature of vulnerability, but also to better tailor more resilience-based responses. UNDP has been at the forefront of new thinking on the evolving nature of risks in the region and developing capacities for resilience-based responses.

In 2013, UNDP led development of the Resilience-Based Approach to Development, a joint effort by the Regional United Nations Development Group focused on putting human vulnerability at the center of sub-regional responses to the Syria crisis. UNDP supports immediate responses to the crisis while also building longer-term resilience measures for recovery and development.

As the UN system’s largest provider of assistance on climate change, UNDP has also helped mobilize climate finance to address growing risks in the region. Over $30million of new programmes have been launched to help operationalize resilience-based development in Sudan, Yemen, Djibouti, Egypt and Tunisia.

UNDP supports new capacities to assess risks from a multi-dimensional perspective, and take action to combat more frequent and severe droughts, rising food and water insecurity and risk of rising sea levels. A number of regional initiatives are also underway.

Through UNDPs Arab Climate Resilience Initiative, UNDP supports capacities of policy decision-makers, with a series of regional dialogues in recent years on climate risks and response options. Through UNDPs Arab Cities Disaster Resilience Initiative, city planners in Sudan, Lebanon and Tunisia will also be supported to integrate risk and resilience into urban planning.

In current times of great change in the region, Arab countries, individually and regionally through the League of Arab states need to consider adopting more robust-resilience-based approaches to development that can break the cycle of crisis, poverty and risk that fuels instability.

The costs of a risk-blind approach to development may soon be unaffordable.

UNDP stands ready to support our partners across the Arab region in managing risks and building resilience, protect hard-won development gains against reversal and secure prosperity for future Arab generations.

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