A new regional mechanism is being established to coordinate disaster risk management in southern Africa.
A formal structure for cooperation also ensures a coordinated approach for regional responses to challenges posed by climate change in the 16 member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
SADC and its International Cooperating Partners (ICPs) "have agreed to establish a new Thematic Group on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management for purposes of ensuring a robust engagement mechanism on climate change-related issues," according to a SADC report.
This would become the eighth thematic group established by SADC and ICPs to coordinate their activities in various sectors.
Other thematic groups are in the areas of Agriculture and Food Security; Energy; HIV and AIDS; Information Communication Technology; Peace and Security; Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment; Transport; and Water.
The thematic groups are established to realign the SADC regional integration agenda with the development agendas of the ICPs and thus improve efficiency and effectiveness of the implementation of the SADC policies and programmes, as outlined in the SADC Vision 2050 and the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2020-2030.
The thematic groups are one of the outcomes of the Windhoek Declaration on a New Partnership between SADC and ICPs that was signed during a consultative conference held in the Namibian capital in April 2006.
The objective of the partnership is to contribute towards the achievement of the SADC Common Agenda.
This involves the attainment of the SADC Mission of promoting sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient productive systems; deeper cooperation and integration; good governance; strengthened capacity and participation of stakeholders; and durable peace and security, so that the region emerges as a competitive and effective player in international relations and the world economy.
The Windhoek Declaration on a New Partnership between SADC and ICPs calls for:
Regular, institutionalised dialogue at the political, policy and technical levels for constructive engagement, information and experience exchange, and the promotion of best practices on development cooperation;
Improved coordination between ICPs and SADC to ensure more effective development cooperation mechanisms with a view to achieving maximum impact; and
Alignment, harmonization and streamlining of operational procedures, rules and other practices in the delivery of development assistance to SADC, taking into account local conditions.
The planned establishment of the new thematic group comes as SADC Member States have resolved to intensify efforts to ensure better preparedness in the face of frequent and increasingly severe climate change-related disasters.
Speaking during the virtual SADC Council of Ministers meeting held on 13 August, the outgoing Council Chairperson, Prof. Palamagamba John Kabudi called for the strengthening of climate resilience as well as general preparedness against other natural and people-made disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic, droughts and floods.
"These multiple hazards have highlighted the importance of cooperation and coordinated response, as well as the need to come up with innovative mechanisms to strengthen resilience, preparedness and responsiveness for disasters, including pandemics, epidemics and related hazards," said Prof. Kabudi, who is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Republic of Tanzania.
In the past few decades, southern Africa has experienced an increasing frequency and severity of droughts, floods, cyclones and locusts that were attributed to climate change and variability, resulting in food insecurity and other socio-economic impacts.
Between January and April 2019, the region faced a number of weather-related phenomena such as tropical cyclones Desmond, Enawo, Idai and Kenneth, which caused extensive flooding in SADC Member States such as the Union of Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Cyclone Idai was recorded as one of the worst tropical storms to ever affect Africa and the southern hemisphere.
This year a swarm of locusts, also attributed to climate change, invaded parts of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and most of East Africa.
The locusts destroyed crops, leaving farmers with little to salvage from their fields and livestock with nothing to eat in parts of the region.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, a small swarm of locusts can consume enough food for 35,000 people in a single day.
The 2019 annual report of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change said 91 percent of all major disasters and 77 percent of economic losses from natural disasters during the year were attributed to extreme weather events.
This percentage is expected to increase as the World Meteorological Organization has projected that global temperatures would rise by between three and five degrees Celsius by 2100.
Against such projections, the SADC Council of Ministers called on Member States to strengthen the implementation of resilience-building initiatives and contingency planning, as well as improve early warning and response mechanisms to minimize the impact of disasters and natural hazards on the people of the region.
Despite progress in policy formulation, one of the major challenges inhibiting the successful implementation of disaster risk reduction strategies is the lack of sufficient funding, given that the SADC Regional Disaster Preparedness and Response Strategy and Fund is inadequately resourced.
The SADC Regional Development Fund (RDF), which is intended to be the primary source in the event of a disaster, is yet to be fully functional.
Member States agreed to establish the RDF to mobilise financial resources to support infrastructure, social development, disaster risk and regional integration.
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