The session provided an overview and analysis of the recent European Commission Communication designed to build resilience into the European Union’s responses to food security crises and other disasters. The central initiative involves combining the forces and efforts of humanitarian and development work. The goal is partly to avoid losing development gains to the destructive forces of disaster. It means building sustainability into humanitarian relief efforts so that rapid relief efforts have longer-lasting effects. Finally, it also means working more closely with recipient governments.
Audience questions on the topic basically boiled down to two main points: (1) What’s new?, and (2) Why will it be any different this time? The leaders on the panel responded by saying that they will set targets and are willing to be held accountable. There was also a consensus that, in the age of climate change, there is no room for failure.
The primary indicator of success will be levels of childhood malnutrition. A simple measurement, it reflects not only lives saved and an improved quality of life for individuals, but also translates into lower costs in the future. Another measurement will be whether or not infrastructure and social spending in fact reach the most vulnerable populations.
The Communication contains three main components: (1) improved risk assessment and the ability to anticipate crises; (2) focus on prevention and preparedness; and (3) enhanced responses to crises and building a bridge to development. As climate change and urbanisation advance, disasters are more frequent and severe. The most vulnerable people – the poor – are hardest hit. Yet disaster preparedness remains a small item in the aid budget. It needs more attention.
Examples of building resilience into aid programmes include:
The resilience initiative draws heavily on the recent responses to drought in the Horn of Africa and erratic rainfall and poor harvests in the Sahel. In those cases, humanitarian and development teams have begun to work more closely together. The United Kingdom plans to build the concept of resilience into the work of its international field offices by 2015. The first eight country offices will move forward on this initiative by 2013.
This new approach to resilience is designed not to save money but to ensure better results. There was, however, concern expressed in some quarters about efforts to reduce the European Union foreign aid budget.
Caroline Anstey, Managing Director, The World Bank Group
Pascal Canfin, Minister for Development, France
Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International
Development, United Kingdom
Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation,
Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator, United States Agency for International
Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development
Moderator: Simon Maxwell, Senior Research Associate, Overseas Development Institute
This High-Level Panel was organized by the European Commission