Climate Change Vulnerability and Disaster Risk Reduction

Key Takeaways from the Roundtable

  • African countries were prone to natural disasters
  • Statistics have revealed that two of the most damaging disasters in Africa were droughts and floods, being responsible for 79 percent and 18 percent losses of GDP respectively.
  • Disaster was identified as a main inhibitor of development in many African countries, climate change being identified as only a subset of the global sustainability crisis.
  • In exemplifying this point, statistics show that disasters contribute to between three and 15 percent of annual loss of GDP in African countries.
  • Challenges identified in disaster management included access to usable information in order to inform policy and strategy development, and re-structuring of governmental and non-governmental institutes in order to manage threats across the sectors of governance and society
  • Suggested solutions to these challenges were the creation of more databases on a regional and national level; increasing awareness of disaster management via the media and non-governmental advocacy, as well as active interaction with the AfDB and related organizations in order to form and implement effective re-infrastructure programmes
  • Other strategies include the creation of more disaster resilient environments via the use of national and regional strategies that have been developed. These include flood coping strategies developed and implemented in countries such as Mozambique.
  • The AfDB has developed procedures for disaster-stricken countries to apply for aid. This aid comes in the form of emergency relief, and adaptability and assistance programs, the latter being for long-lasting disaster effects
  • Despite these efforts, it was pointed out that further measures need to be developed to mobilize the private sector to assist in the climate change fight, as well as increasing mechanisms that ensure financial relief reaches the most affected rural communities


Disaster vulnerabilities and exposure in Africa are increasing, compounding the challenges of sustainable development and undermining Africa’s prospect of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. On average, almost two disasters of significant proportions are recorded every week in the region since 2000. Climatic and hydrological hazards, in particular drought, floods and cyclones dominate the disaster profile of the Africa region, affecting, on average, around 12.5 million people per year.

Member States of the African Union have demonstrated continued commitment to disaster risk reduction through the adoption of the Decision on the Report of the Second African Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction by the Executive Council of the African Union at the January 2011 Summit. The Executive Council endorsed the recommendations contained in the Ministerial Declaration as well as the Extended Africa Programme of Action (PoA) for DRR 2005-2015, which includes strategic areas of intervention, key activities, expected results, measurable indicators and mechanism at regional, sub-regional and national level to coordinate and support implementation of Africa Regional Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction and its Programme of Action 2005-2015, which is in line with the global Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015. One overall goal highlighted in the PoA is to mainstream risk reduction management and climate change adaptation as an integral part of sustainable development.

At sub-regional level, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are being duly empowered to provide effective coordination and strategic guidance to their Member States to align their sub-regional strategies and programmes to the Africa Regional Strategy and Programme of Action and facilitate their effective implementation in their sub-regions.

During 2011, the Africa Working Group on DRR (AWG) was inaugurated by the African Union Commission (AUC) as an Africa driven mechanism to provide coordination and technical support to AUC, RECS Member States and partners for the implementation of the Africa Regional Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction and its Programme of Action. The AWG is chaired by the AUC in partnership with the UNISDR acting as a Secretariat.

In Africa, a level of commitment exists in the enactment of DRR legislation with a positive trend in the establishment or reform of institutional, legislative and policy frameworks for disaster risk reduction.

Currently, 34 countries in Africa have established national platforms or equivalent, 25 countries have national policies and strategies for disaster risk reduction and 13 countries shave allocated resources for disaster risk reduction from the national budget as per the UNISDR regional office for Africa that monitors the implementation of the HFA, the Africa Regional Strategy for DRR and its Programme of Action.

In Africa, there is also a greater recognition of the relationship between poverty and vulnerability to disasters caused by natural hazards.  As a result, many countries have put in place mechanisms to protect the environment and ensure sustainable development and 29 countries are making significant efforts for the inclusion of disaster risk reduction in their national plans for climate change adaptation (NAPAs).

The Cancun Adaptation Framework agreed in Mexico invited Parties to strengthen adaptation action in nine areas, including “enhancing climate change-related disaster risk reduction strategies, taking into consideration the Hyogo Framework for Action; early warning systems; risk assessment and management; and sharing and transfer mechanisms such as insurance, at local, national, sub-regional and regional levels, as appropriate.”

UNFCCC COP 17 in Durban provides a key opportunity to focus on disaster risk reduction and management and climate change adaptation especially in Africa. While many organizations are working on improving early warning systems and contingency planning, a gap still exists at the institutional level as the affected population is still insufficiently prepared to cope with disasters and adapt to change. The objective of the proposed event is to highlight the importance of disaster risk reduction and management as a tool to reduce vulnerability and enhance coping capacities to Climate Change impacts and related cooperation and synergies. The year 2011 has been devastating in terms of drought in the Horn of Africa.

The Roundtable is designed to stimulate and strengthen High-level Commitment to Disaster Risk Reduction as a tool to reduce vulnerability and enhance coping capacities to Climate Change impacts.

Key messages:

  • Disaster risk reduction continues to be the first line of defence against the negative impacts of climate change.
    • Climate change adaptation and disaster risk management are intimate elements of sustainable development and therefore it is of central importance to build links and synergies between climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction and sustainable development.
    • Disaster risk reduction in Africa is effective and achieving results in climate change adaptation, therefore investments and resources should be drawn to disaster risk management for climate change adaptation
    • Immediate action to implement the Cancun Adaptation Framework can start with measures that reduce the risk to disasters in vulnerable countries such as those in Africa.
    • Social protection and safety net programmes are essential to protect livelihoods, support resilience-building efforts, enhance food security and enable the poorest and most vulnerable people to manage current and future risks.
  • Access to information on risk to disasters due to natural hazards is a prerequisite for climate change adaptation planning.
    • Using information on disaster risk, as captured in locally and nationally owned disaster loss data, allows effective planning and prioritizing adaptation action.
  • Climate change adaptation financing should be guided by understanding of effective development investment that reduces disaster risk.
    • Addressing the risk of natural hazards in national and local development investments is a cost effective manner to upscale the financing of climate change adaptation.

Key questions

  • What evidence and experience exist from the African continent to highlight the effectiveness of disaster risk reduction in the context of addressing climate change and contribute to resilience and sustainable development for the most vulnerable?
  • How can access to information about risk, vulnerability and exposure be strengthened and contribute to decision-making as well as planning processes at regional, national and local level?
  • What financial resources are required to scale up climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, and how can it be ensured that these reduce risks in a systematic manner?
  • [wrap-up question?] What are the key priorities for Africa and its countries to effectively reduce risk, ensure food security and build resilience and enhance coping capacities in the next decade?
  • Chair: H.E.Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, AUC (TBC)
  • Keynote: Ms Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary General, UNISDR (TBC)
  • Moderator: Prominent media person, TBC
  • Panelists:   
    • Mr Abdou Sane, President of Parliamentarian Network on DRR (TBC)
    • Eng. Mahboub Maalim, Executive Secretary, IGAD (TBC)
    • Vice President of the Gambia (TBC)
    • Ms. Sheila Sisulu, Deputy Executive Director, WFP (TBC)
    • Ethiopia Social Protection Safety Net Programme (TBC)
    • Dr Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, Chair, IPCC (TBC)
    • AfDB speaker or  AfDB or Ms. Anna Lindstedt, Ambassador for Climate Change, Ministry of Environment, Sweden (TBC)


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