EU pledges further work on ‘resilience’ to climate change

Women filling buckets with water from a well. [F. Lefebvre/ UNICEF]

Women filling buckets with water from a well. [F. Lefebvre/ UNICEF]

The EU commissioners dealing with development cooperation and humanitarian aid have pledged more work on “resilience”, defined as the ability of individuals and communities to recover from shocks and stresses.

The idea has become more prominent in development discussions in Brussels, as policymakers have searched for ways to mitigate the expected effects of climate change.

Many of the world’s most vulnerable people have been buffered or seen their livelihoods destroyed by extreme weather events, such a typhoon in the Philippines last year, Haiyan, and severe flooding in Bangladesh.

Kristalina Georgieva, the commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis response, said at the EU’s first forum on resilience, on Monday (28 April), that the concept was “nothing new”, as it referred to “coping mechanisms people have to create themselves”.

The commissioner said that while the worst of the crisis received considerable media attention, the “success of resilience” was “a difficult story to tell”.

She added that people in Bangladesh had switched from chickens to rearing ducks, as a way to cope with the floods.

Bridging aid approaches

Officials have also worked to bring crisis response and longer term development projects together.

Last year, the Commission released an action plan for resilience in crisis-prone countries for the 2013 to 2020 period, stating its aim as laying the foundations for more effective collaborative action with the EU member states “on building resilience, bringing together humanitarian action, long-term development cooperation and on-going political engagement”.

The EU is supporting a number of initiatives, which are listed in the action plan, including AGIR (Global Alliance for Resilience for the Sahel and West Africa), which currently seeks €1.5 billion of funding for 2014 to 2020, the EU’s budgetary programming period, and SHARE (Supporting the Horn of Africa’s Resilience), which has received €350 million, since it was launched in 2011, and which “will be followed up with projects” under the 11th European Development Fund.

The Commission is also supporting projects which are led domestically, such as ‘Les Nigériens Nourrissent les Nigeriens’ (‘The Nigerians feed Nigerians’), or ‘3N’, an initiative overseen by the government of the Republic of Niger.

Luca Alinovi, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s representative for Kenya and Somalia, told EURACTIV that bridging humanitarian and development action could allow countries to see better results over the long term.

He said that the form of support people received in some regions was more related to geography than the wider humanitarian context.

“In semi-arid and arid areas of the Horn of Africa, most of the intervention has been humanitarian. If you go in the high-productive areas of the same area, most of the intervention has been developmental, so there has been a divide that has rather been more driven by the geography than the context.

“There, I think we made a lot of progress and improvement when we brought longer term planning to the arid and semi-arid areas of the Horn of Africa, in the lowlands, in Kenya, in Ethiopia, where we brought a much stronger long-term predictable mechanism to fix issues,” he said, adding that longer term planning was possible in these regions because they were peaceful and had an institutional capacity.

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