Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How to Save the UN - by Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC

UN Flags (Credit: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
It is anticipated that this week’s UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants will seek to better protect migrants and refugees during their perilous journeys, and while this is vital, it will count for little unless we deal with the reasons why people are having to leave.

The UN acknowledges that the international community has been “struggling for years to find better ways to resolve violent conflicts in many parts of the world and to mitigate the impact of climate change and disasters.  Alleviating extreme poverty, food insecurity, lack of decent work, inequality, tackling discrimination and human-rights violations and abuses, establishing rule of law, mitigating the impact of disasters and climate change are all massive tasks.”

Yet these tasks that are already described as ‘massive’ are getting bigger.  With temperature records being broken month by month, the impacts that climate change has had on conflict and refugees in places like Syria and Mali will only grow.  With sea-level rise advancing more quickly than scientists predicted, those communities in the South Pacific and in Alaska who have already been forced to move will be joined by many more.  Though climate is not the only factor impacting the choices being made by these people, it is a real and growing danger.

The incumbent UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will leave a legacy of working to reform the UN to break down the institutional silos that slow us down when we respond to such crises. He will leave a legacy of having put frameworks in place — such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement — that can help address some of the ‘massive tasks’.

But this important work needs to be sped up and increased, for example, by incorporating an understanding of climate risk into everything that the UN does.  This would ensure that over the longer term we understand better where the hot spots are and how to help prevent system breakdown.  It would also give teeth to the conclusions of the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit held earlier this year.

Read more at How to Save the UN

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