Climate Change: Small Island States Face 'Existential Threat'

Human Wrongs Watch

The head of the United Nations office dealing with disaster risk mitigation has on 4 April 2015 underlined her concerns about the future development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the face of extreme weather events.


Crop damage caused by Super Cyclone Pam on the Pacific Island of Vanuatu. Photo: UNICEF/Gaelle Sevenier


“Climate change combined with poverty and exposed infrastructure and housing, will lead to a significant increase in economic losses due to increased wind damage and sea level rise,” said Margareta Wahlström, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Disaster Risk Reduction and head of the UN’s Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).*

“It is remarkable that in the two weeks since the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, both the Republic of Vanuatu and the Federated States of Micronesia have been forced to declare a state of emergency,” she said. “Two separate Category 5 cyclones which have caused several deaths, population displacement and widespread destruction.”

Wahlström pointed out that many millions of people across the Philippines were also facing the threat of Typhoon Maysak this weekend.

Children in the village of Tebikenikora, on Kiribati’s main Tarawa atoll. Will they have to move one day as a result of climate change? UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Children in the village of Tebikenikora, on Kiribati’s main Tarawa atoll. Will they have to move one day as a result of climate change? UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

“The Pacific is a constant reminder to the rest of the world of what is at stake this year,” she said, referring to the international agreements on climate and a new global development agenda, which are under discussion this year and which aim to complement the framework on disaster risk reduction agreed last month in Sendai.

“For many small island states, expected future losses are not just disproportionately high, they pose an existential threat,” Wahlström stressed. “Unless disaster risk is reduced these countries will struggle to meet the development needs of their people.” (*Source: UN).

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2015 Human Wrongs Watch

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