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Integrating climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction

As the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction soon gets underway, the world is witnessing the highest levels of famine risk in decades. While war and conflict stand as a major root cause of the crisis in the Middle East and Africa, climate change is a key “enhancer” of the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes. 

Supporting UNDP’s climate change actions in the Arab region, I experience first-hand how an integrated approach to climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) is needed more than ever. Both share a focus on risk-informed development and preventing the worst impacts of climatic disasters from emerging. They have a common objective to build the resilience of communities so they can withstand and bounce back from crisis.

Recent years have seen devastating impacts of more frequent and severe droughts from Syria and Iraq to Somalia and Sudan. Some studies now show that the region may face multi-year mega-droughts in the future as the region’s climate shifts to a ‘new normal’.

The risks of more frequent and severe impacts of climate change and disasters are seen in no place more than in my own country of Yemen. Yemen is now facing the world’s largest food insecurity crisis, with seven million people facing potential famine this year.

The humanitarian crisis is mainly the result of the ongoing war, which has devastated the country. But climate change and disasters have been an important ‘threat multiplier’ over many years, exacerbating food insecurity, decimating water reserves, expanding drylands and creating underlying levels of social vulnerability.

Both CCA and DRR aim to make communities more resilient to these drivers of change. Integrated action on these issues also helps improve the prospects for recovery from conflict when the war does eventually cease.

One way we will support more integrated CCA-DRR approaches in the Arab region is through a new SDG Climate Nexus Facility. This is a regional initiative between the League of Arab States, the Arab Water Council, UNDP, UNEP, UNISDR and WFP to help countries integrate disaster and climate resilience into development and humanitarian interventions.

Through joint UN action, the initiative will develop local capacities for risk-informed development through integrated CCA-DRR approaches and bring greater coherence in implementation of the Arab Action Plan on Climate Change and the Arab DRR Strategy. It will scale up the use of science for decision-making and expand early warning systems, social protection mechanisms like climate- and drought-indexed insurance, and enhance resilience of agriculture and water systems to more severe droughts and floods.

Through the SDG Climate Nexus Facility, UN partners will bring together the UN’s leading development and humanitarian agencies to promote an integrated approach to adaptation as a means to:

  • protection of capacities and assets from impacts of climatic disasters;
  • preparedness of communities and institutions to cope and mitigate the impacts of climatic shocks and disasters;
  • and strengthening of communities’ ability to recover and reconstruct from conflicts in a way that ensures their resilience to future climatic disasters.

By enhancing capacities to take an integrated CCA-DRR approach, the UN system can help countries implement the Sendai Framework on DRR, the Paris Agreement to combat climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals in a coherent manner, help bridge the divide between humanitarian and development solutions, and help build resilience in the wake of what is emerging to be one of the most devastating crises facing the world since the birth of the United Nations.

This article originally appeared on

Walid Ali is a climate change specialist with the UNDP Regional Hub for Arab States.

Photo credits: United Nations Photo/ [CC BY-NC ND 2.0]