GA: Ensuring Resilient Livelihoods

10/2/2012 // Norway's Minister of International Development Mr. Heikki Holmås presented this statement under the panel debate "Ensuring resilient Livelihoods", during the opening of the United Nations General Assembly 2012.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Climate change is already here. Natural disasters are hitting harder and more frequently than before.Livelihoods are being eroded more quickly. Larger numbers of people are being forced to move. Poverty and conflicts are further worsening the situation, and creating greater humanitarian needs. 

At the same time, we know that the seriousness of the disaster depend on how resilient the society is. Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia were seriously affected by drought last year, but Ethiopia and Kenya avoided the famine that struck Somalia because they were better prepared.

Too often, we, as the international society, only focus on the immediate life-saving action. We forget that unless we also deal with the underlying causes, the crisis will repeat itself, over and over again. We must find practical ways of ensuring that building resilience to disasters is at the forefront of our response.

Norway has recently signed a multiyear strategic agreement with WFP to provide predictable funding for preparedness and food security. WFP Executive Director Cousin told me that they have to close down important resilience programmes in Haiti due to lack of funding. With predictable funding, WFP and others can address the root causes of hunger crises rather than just feeding the hungry once a crisis strikes. 

Humanitarian aid alone cannot resolve humanitarian problems. Ensuring resilient livelihoodsrequires a long-term development perspective. As donors, we must support governments in their plans for resilience and climate adaptation. We have to have a more coordinated approach between our humanitarian and development assistance. More emphasise is needed on triangular and south–south cooperation.

Greater attention should be given to local efforts, based on strong partnership between local societies, non-governmental organizations and authorities. And they should include all members of society –men, women, girls and boys. The leading roles of women as drivers and leaders cannot be over-estimated. Ladies and gentlemen, it was the women who knew where the neighbours’ children were playing when the disaster struck. Their role in local planning is vital!

Today, approximately 20 % of all humanitarian aid go to immediate disaster relief and response. Less than 1 % of official development assistance is used on prevention measures. Here each country and multilateral organization, must shoulder their share of the burden. We must shift the focus of humanitarian aid from immediate relief and response to proactive risk reduction and preparedness and integrate this in ordinary development programmes. We have no time to lose.

Funding and coordination is important. But here, as in most other cases, political will is the most crucial factor for success.

Niger, a very poor country, suffers from recurrent drought and famine. While drought used to hit the country about every tenth year in the past, Niger is now experiencing severe drought just two years after the hunger crisis of 2010. WFP, in cooperation with the Government of Niger, is about to establish safety net programmes to increase resilience to food shortages. The Government of Niger is involving the local population, with focus on domestic food production, capacity-building, addressing root causes of vulnerability, preparedness and resilience. The work and political leadership in Niger is very promising and should be set as an example for other draught-struck countries.


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