The World of International Organizations

IFRC finds climate aid not reaching most in need

People take refuge on the roofs of buildings following flooding caused by 2019's Cyclone Idai in Mozambique (AN/World Vision)

GENEVA — None of the 20 nations most vulnerable to climate change were among the top recipients of aid to adapt to more flooding, drought and other risks from global warming, according to a new Red Cross report on Tuesday.

Some 43 highly vulnerable countries received less than US$1 per person in climate adaptation funding, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or IFRC, said in its 378-page World Disasters Report 2020. The most vulnerable, Somalia, ranked 71st in terms of per-capita money received. Two countries — Central African Republic and North Korea — received no such disbursements at all.

“An additional challenge is ensuring that funding reaches the most at-risk people within these countries,” the organization said. “Many communities may be particularly vulnerable to climate-related risks, from people affected by conflict whose capacity to manage shocks is already strained, to migrants and displaced people who may struggle to access the services and assistance they need, to urban poor people and other marginalized communities.”

On the opposite end of the scale, none of the five countries receiving the most aid were considered highly vulnerable to climate change, according to IFRC.

The 2015 Paris Agreement requires governments to contribute billions of dollars for international climate financing under the auspices of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, which serves as the platform for climate negotiations. The money is supposed to be transferred from the wealthiest nations that are most responsible for human-caused climate change to those that are most in need and bear the least responsibility for causing the planet to overheat.

“Our first responsibility is to protect communities that are most exposed and vulnerable to climate risks,” IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said in a statement. “However, our research demonstrates that the world is collectively failing to do this. There is a clear disconnection between where the climate risk is greatest and where climate adaptation funding goes. This disconnection could very well cost lives.”

Outcomes, not categories

Over the next decade, at least US$55 billion a year will be needed to help 50 developing nations adapt to a warming world, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates.

But none of the “very high risk” countries received more than US$11 per person. Others considered the most at-risk, including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Somalia and South Sudan, all received around US$3 per person.

To fix the problem, IFRC recommended that donors systematically provide money based on projected “outcomes for people rather than category of aid input.” That would mean prioritizing which projects get money according to whether the planning for them is “well-informed and led by need and impact,” the organization said, rather than making a determination based on a preconceived formula.

“It is widely agreed that it is neither morally or financially defensible for aid to come largely in an ad-hoc, post-hoc manner after a disaster has hit,” IFRC’s report said. “Financing must be arranged upfront to adapt to the effects of climate change, reduce the risk of disasters and anticipate their impacts.”

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