Memorandum submitted by Netherlands Red
The International Federation of Red Cross and
Red Crescent Societies is the world's largest humanitarian organization,
providing assistance without discrimination as to nationality,
race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions.
Founded in 1919, the International Federation
comprises 178 member National Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.
There are around 97 million members and volunteers in the Red
Cross Red Crescent Movement worldwide, of whom an estimated 20
million people are volunteers. In 2000, 50 million people around
the world were assisted by the Red Cross Red Crescent movement.
According to the 2001 World Disasters Report,
more disasters were reported in 2000 than in previous years. However,
the year 2000 saw significantly fewer people killed by disastersome
20,000 as compared to the average of 75,000 per year during the
previous decade. But the number of people affected by disasters
went up to 256 million compared with an average of 211 million
per year from 1991 to 2000, and an annual average of 147 million
in the 1980s.
A major cause of the increasing number of people
being affected by disasters is the increase in the number of hydro-meteorological
disasters such as floods, wind storms and droughts. Since the
mid-1990s, the reported number of weather-related disasters has
doubled. They now account for over 90 per cent of all deaths from
natural disasters. The effect on lives and livelihoods is immense,
and the economic effect on a country's development is considerable.
The average amount of estimated disaster damage during the 1990s
was 81 billion dollars per year (2000 prices), of which weather-
related disasters amounted to nearly 55 billion per year (68 per
cent). Since the 1950s, costs associated with natural disasters
have gone up 14 times. And some agencies estimate that the future
costs of climate-related disasters over the next 20 years could
range from 6-10 trillion dollars10 times more than the
projected flows of aid/ODA.
The frequency and effect of disasters, particularly
in the last decade, has increased at such an alarming rate that
vulnerable populations do not always have the opportunity to recover
from one disaster before the next one strikes. As a result, disasters
are threatening the possibility of achieving the 2015 development
goals set by the OECD. Staying a step ahead of the next disaster
is becoming increasingly important. This is why the IFRC has identified
disaster preparedness as one of the four core areas of activities
for itself and for National Societies under Strategy 2010.
Not only the current statistics of increasing
numbers of hydro-meteorological disasters and people affected
are a source of great concern. Reports by in particular the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change have further increased our anxiety. The
IPCC expects climate change to lead to more floods, more droughts,
more areas affected by vector-borne diseases, and millions of
people affected by sea-level rise and forced to move.
Humanitarian organizations will be among the
first to respond to the impacts of climate change. This realisation
was the prime motive for the Netherlands Red Cross in the beginning
of 2001 to explore the possibilities of a Red Cross/Red Crescent
Centre on Climate Change and Disaster Preparedness. In the process
of establishing the centre, where we have now entered the final
stage of decision making, I have had the privilege of talking
with many people from both the international humanitarian relief
and disaster science community as the "climate change community".
We are hoping to build a bridge between these
communities at local, national and international levels. I hope
that some of my observations on this process can be helpful in
the context of this hearing.
1. Climate change is still dominantly regarded
as an environmental issue. In most if not all countries, the Ministries
of Environment have the lead in developing the national climate-change
policy and in negotiating internationally in the framework of
the UNFCCC and related fora. As a result, the humanitarian and
development perspective of climate change, in particular in developing
countries, is still hardly developed.
2. The prime objective of international
climate-change policy development and research has been understanding
the climate change problem and trying to solve it. This is reflected
in the funding and "intellectual investments" into working
groups 1 and 3 of the IPCC, which is generous compared to the
limited contributions to working group 2. Likewise, the negotiations
in the UNFCCC are dominated by debates on policies and measures
that can be adopted to reduce GHG emissions.
3. Adaptation to climate change in developing
countries is a barely touched subject, both in the work of the
IPCC and in the UNFCCC negotiations and in bilateral and multilateral
ODA-programs, where mitigation of climate change is the dominant
element of climate-change-related programs with developing countries.
4. Involvement of Civil Society is generally
regarded as an important factor in the success of development
programs. However, Civil Society organisations engaged in climate-change
issues are predominantly environmental NGOs. Development agencies
and humanitarian agencies have largely been absent in fora where
climate-change issues are discussed and policies and programs
Reasons for this could be:
that they regard climate change as
an environmental issue, which is not their priority;
that climate change is still a rather
abstract issue, with many uncertainties, which makes it difficult
to assess what climate change could mean in the context of their
national and often locally-oriented strategies and programs; and
that other humanitarian and development
issues are perceived as far more urgent.
As a consequence, civil society organisations
are hardly involved in the development of climate change adaptation
strategies, let alone actual programs.
5. Humanitarian organisations have a lot
of experience in dealing with extreme-weather events. This experience
could be very beneficial to both the development and the implementation
of climate change adaptation programs in development countries.
This can be particularly relevant for organisations such as the
International Federation of RC and RC societies which is already
heavily involved in disaster preparedness programmes.
6. Not only is the interaction between non-environmental
civil society organisations and the climate change community (consisting
of both scientists and policymakers) limited, but there is little
interaction between experts on climate change and experts in the
area of disaster studies at the scientific and policy-making level.
Likewise, there seems to be little interaction within Ministries
between humanitarian divisions and the divisions dealing with
the impact of climate change in developing countries.
7. Awareness of the impact of climate change
and extreme-weather events is a condition for the development
of plans of action to mitigate these impacts, be it at international,
national, local or even at household level. Awareness is the first
step in improving the resilience of people and communities. However,
very little is done in this area. Given the reporting in the national
communications to the UNFCCC, it seems that the commitments made
under Article 6 of the UNFCCC have been given the lowest priority
in both Annex 1 and Non-annex 1 countries, and have received the
least, if any, resources. The disaster preparedness programs of
the RCRC are already based on awareness raising, lessening impact
of disasters and preparing for them. There is definitely an opportunity
to use this to include awareness of the impacts of climate change
and extreme weather events.
When formally established, the Red Cross/Red
Crescent Centre on Climate Change and Disaster Preparedness aims
to assist in the process of bringing climate scientists, policymakers,
operational humanitarian organisations and others involved together
to stimulate greater awareness of the impact of climate change
on the lives of people in vulnerable positions, in particular
in developing countries, which should result in robust policies
and concrete programs that will increase their resilience.
Netherlands Red Cross