For island nations like Kirabati in the Pacific Ocean, climate change poses an existential threat – and reducing that risk was the topic of a meeting in Mexico on Monday, ahead of the biennial 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction held this week.
Dozens of representatives of the world’s Small Island Developing States (SIDS) met to discuss their unique challenges in the fight for the planet’s future. There are 57 SIDS nations, including six African countries, who are forging strategies and trying to find the funds to cope with rising sea levels and more frequent intense storms.
Along with UN agencies, the SIDS event was also organized by the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), which runs the Small Island State Resilience Initiative. It helps to support increasingly fragile nations facing some of the biggest challenges with few resources.
For example, most of the 200,000 people living in São Tomé and Príncipe are in coastal areas that are compromised by flooding and coastal erosion – in some places, more than 100 meters in 60 years. SISRI has supported a government effort to manage a voluntary population retreat to safer, higher ground, creating new communities that are adjacent to the vulnerable coastal lands they hope to protect. The SISRI portfolio also includes sites in Seychelles and the recently hard-hit Madagascar, as well as research in other African islands.
Relocation is often a painful topic, but participants at the Cancun meeting didn’t shy away from it — or from the knowledge that there are no easy, one-size-fits-all solutions.
“The issue of relocation is a very difficult one,” said Jeem Lippwe, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Federated States of Micronesia at the United Nations. “The islands of Micronesia are a combination of very small islands made of corals, and a few islands with mountains. So the idea that people talk about when they say you have to move inland is not applicable. It cannot work. Because when you move inland, it means that you just move to the other side of the island, where the ocean meets you.”
The discussions will continue through the week as the main sessions get under way. For more information about GP17, see this link.