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Posts Tagged ‘Stockholm Environment Institute’

Newly built latrines in Myanmar – but will they be working in 12 months?

Posted by African Press International on September 20, 2013

Newly built latrines in Myanmar – but will they be working in 12 months?

STOCKHOLM,  – The success in achieving the Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) water target and massive growth in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes have masked a little-discussed secret: WASH interventions frequently fail.

Rather than focusing on what is almost literally pouring money down the drain, donor reports and NGO websites prefer instead to boast of the numbers of water pumps drilled or toilets installed.

“You don’t take photos at a funeral,” said Dutch water expert George De Gooijer, who is based at the Netherlands’ embassy in Benin. “The lack of a link between results on the ground and the proposals is the one that needs to be solved.”

In 2012, an audit by the European Union (EU) sought to make that link between its officially completed WASH projects in sub-Saharan Africa and the reality on the ground – but found that more than half of the drinking water schemes surveyed had failed to deliver.

“Negligible positive outcomes” 

A key failure was in the management of the projects rather than the installation of the equipment.

Overall EU spending on water and sanitation projects in sub-Saharan Africa, from 2001 to 2010, amounted to more than one billion euros – and much of it is likely to have failed to produce the intended outcomes.

Hundreds of short-term WASH projects were implemented in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti – rapid construction schemes that have had little long-term impact, says Sasha Kramer, an ecologist and co-founder of the sanitation NGO Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods.

“This approach to sanitation interventions results in massive spending in the sector, impressive implementation statistics for NGOs and negligible positive outcomes for community beneficiaries,” Kramer said.

The UN in Haiti is actually blamed by many analysts for causing the world’s worst recent outbreak of cholera, which killed more than 8,000 people and infected at least 600,000.

This year, the UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact found that a government water project in Sudan’s Darfur region had created “aid dependency” with little focus on creating a durable solution.

The long list of failures is all the more painful because water and sanitation are universally recognized as critically important.

Low-quality water and sanitation systems create acute vulnerabilities during natural disasters. When earthquakes and floods strike, it is frequently the subsequent population movements, water-source contamination and unsanitary conditions that create the most dangers to human life.

Sixty percent of the world’s population has dysfunctional or non-existent sanitation, says Arno Rosemarin, a researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute. There is “no other global statistic leading to high risk that comes close to this one,” he said.

Speaking at this month’s World Water Week in Sweden, he said WASH – particularly sanitation – was “a failing chapter in human development.”

Humanitarian accounting

Donors like concrete, measurable targets. In a WASH sector looking to reduce open defecation and control human waste, this has often meant building toilets – what some analysts call a “vending machine” approach.

Rosemarin says, “There’s a big difference between having a toilet and having a toilet that works.”

In India, which has some of the highest rates of open defecation in the world, the government has embarked on a vast programme of toilet building. The results are so far extremely mixed, says Prakash Jumar from the WASH Institute in India.

Jumar says communities have often been completely left out of the implementation process; sometimes to the extent that they do not use the new toilets because they fail to realize the toilets were built for them.

Poor construction quality has meant that 30-40 percent of toilets have been abandoned, repairs are nearly impossible because of nonexistent supply chains for spare parts, and even when still standing, many are used for storage rooms rather than for defecation.

“We have a lot of lessons learned, but we are not implementing [them] in national and major sanitation programmes. We need to integrate these failures,” Jumar said.

He says the key is community engagement.

“When the community is [involved, they] often don’t then need support from the government. That was one of the major lessons learned from 10 years in the region.”

Global water sector figures say half of water projects end up failing because of a lack of community involvement.

Emergency aid 

Many WASH projects are implemented during humanitarian emergencies, when broken water and sanitation systems can create massive health risks.

“There’s a big difference between having a toilet and having a toilet that works”

But in the rush to intervene in places like refugee camps, basic steps are often not taken – like building adequate drains in areas with high rainfall and not installing flush toilets where water is scarce, according to Katarina Runeberg, an environmental advisor with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB).

There are often multiple actors seeking to respond in a crisis, with no one looking holistically at the whole WASH cycle.

And in many cases, humanitarian actors are trying to implement adequate water and sanitation systems where none existed even before the crisis.

Even before its earthquake, Haiti had the lowest sanitation coverage in the northern hemisphere and the world’s highest incidence rates of diarrhoea, for example.

Long-term perspective 

But even in the world of development, donor deadlines are frequently tight, adequate measurables can be difficult to find, and construction continues to be favoured over operation and maintenance.

“WASH systems inherently require long-term operations and maintenance. And to ensure the ongoing maintenance of a WASH system, community engagement and long-term planning are critical,” said Kramer.

But projects implemented from outside rarely have the sort of long-term funding needed for maintenance and regular assessment. One rare example is the Netherlands, which is attempting to make sure implementing partners aim for 10-year sustainability, says De Gooijer, but this can be difficult to implement.

“We are very frequently limited through time-framing that we need to complete by a certain date, and spend money by a certain date,” said Patrick Fox, an advisor to the disaster unit at the Swedish Red Cross.

They have begun using “Look Back” studies to check up on WASH projects two to five years later. In the case of their work in North Korea, they initially found 80 percent of projects were no longer functional. Problems included a lack of local familiarity with the materials used (like PVC piping), and the use of sewage as fertilizer before it was safe to do so – issues they were able to correct.

“If you think you’ve discovered something good, leave it alone in the field for two years and then see if it is working,” said Peter Morgan, an award-winning WASH inventor and scientist who has been implementing projects in Zimbabwe for decades.

A Syrian refugee in Iraq tries to unblock a ‘grey’ water channel at his camp

But donors have yet to establish concrete funding mechanisms for these kinds of long-term assessments.

This leads to the broader question of just how practical it is for outside humanitarian and development actors to be even trying to implement large-scale WASH systems.

Morgan says the success of a mass-deployment of specially designed ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines could be attributed largely to the fact that it was approved and implemented by the Zimbabwean government itself. He says governments and users need to be strongly associated with any projects if they are to avoid failure.

“Local people are incredibly innovative, and if you are a humble character you need to open your eyes and look at that,” he said. “People live there. They don’t drive off in a fancy 4×4 vehicle and vanish in the dust. They actually live there.”

Few, if any, countries can claim to have a large-scale WASH system thanks to international NGOs, which Kramer says frequently lack “cultural fluency” and have an “inability or unwillingness to engage with local communities.”

Donor pressure 

Canada’s Engineers Without Borders produces an annual “Failure Report”. The organization found that around half of all failures were not related to conditions in recipient countries, but rather derived from internal planning, communication, decision-making and personal leadership.

Yet it remains extremely difficult for UN agencies, international NGOs and local actors to say that their WASH projects were failures. Donors want to see successful track records, and no one wants to fund a fiasco.

“It’s not fashionable enough to talk about failure,” said Rosemarin

For communities receiving water and sanitation projects, the lack of honest engagement can create barriers.

“The walls of fear, distrust and misperception affect international interventions in all sectors, but are particularly disruptive to WASH interventions, where quick fixes are not possible and successful projects are completely dependent on community engagement,” said Kramer.

Otherwise, as one aid worker from Uzbekistan reported, villages may be successively visited by different NGOs installing the same sanitation project one year after the next.

“Getting negative feedback could be more valuable than the opposite,” said Morgan. “If you have failures, then the very least you can do is to find out what went wrong.”

jj/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Everyone has the right to be safe – Disaster risk reduction

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2013

By Jaspreet Kindra 

Everyone has the right to be safe

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Focus on implementation
  • Need to make countries accountable
  • A human rights-based approach to making people safer
  • New-found attention to resilience could help

JOHANNESBURG, 17 May 2013 (IRIN) – A month after the Indian Ocean tsunami struck in December 2004, affecting millions, 168 countries signed on to a 10-year plan to make the world safer from natural hazards. Yet the plan, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015, focused primarily on “what to do to prevent disasters, but not enough on how to implement it,” says Neil McFarlane, chief coordinator and head of all regional programmes at the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

Countries have since begun discussing what a follow-up action plan, the Hyogo Framework for Action 2 (HFA2), should look like. The results of these talks, a sketch of the HFA2, will be presented at the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which begins in Geneva on 19 May.

A draft will be finalized towards the end of 2014, for consideration and adoption at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Japan in 2015.

The HFA2 will need to take on a number of emerging risks and concerns. While the HFA has helped countries reduce the loss of human lives, the economic consequences of natural disasters have continued to rise. For three consecutive years, natural hazards have cost the world more than US$100 billion a year, according to data from the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) released in March 2013.

Additionally, disaster risks are changing: The effects of the changing climate are expected to prompt more intense and frequent extreme natural events, including floods, droughts and cyclones. Urban populations are growing, as is demand for food, ratcheting up pressure on resources like land and water.

Accountability

In tackling the HFA2, experts are discussing how to improve accountability. “We have a framework with options to develop good disaster plans in the Hyogo, but how do we make governments, agencies… ensure it is implemented?” Tom Mitchell, head of the climate change programme at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), told IRIN.

Mitchell says one of the major weaknesses of the HFA is its failure to ensure that “well-crafted” disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies were actually implemented. The agreement is voluntary, and there are no penalties for failing to put in place measures to protect citizens.

“Because it [HFA] is voluntary, we have to ask how… effective it can be,” remarked Frank Thomalla, senior research fellow with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in Asia.

Some question whether the world should consider a legal disaster-prevention treaty with a provision for penalties.

The new plan’s timing is significant for the global community; 2015 also marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals and possibly the implementation of new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are still under discussion. A new agreement on addressing and adapting to climate change is also likely to be put into place around that time. Aid agencies and think tanks are all calling on the global community to consider the synergies among these policy-shaping developments.

Many observers now question whether DRR policies should become a part of the legal climate deal, which might ensure their implementation. Countries’ DRR activities are increasingly considered part of their climate change adaptation plans, and are being funded as such.

But there is no appetite for a legal treaty on DRR, says UNISDR’s McFarlane.

Harjeet Singh, ActionAid‘s international coordinator for DRR and climate change adaptation (CAA), says he is uncertain if a legal treaty “will bring about a dramatic change… After all, we have seen how [the UN’s] climate convention (UNFCCC) … failed to deliver in the last 20 years.”

Besides, the climate change deal will not consider geophysical events such as earthquakes and other triggers of potential disasters unrelated to climate, he added.

“Many of the drivers of vulnerability result from inequality and marginalization, meaning certain regions and social groups are more vulnerable to hazards than others and are more strongly affected by the impacts”

That fact, plus the range of social and economic factors contributing to disaster risk, calls into question the rationale for viewing DRR, CCA and development from a purely climatological perspective, SEI’s Thomalla told IRIN in an email.

But the Cancun Adaptation Framework adopted by countries at the UNFCCC talks in Mexico in 2010 urges countries to implement the HFA, so it does make it a part of a stronger commitment linked to climate change says UNISDR’s MacFarlane.

Taking measurements

Under the HFA, countries are required to report on how far they have complied with implementing DRR strategies and policies. But how “reliable is this data?” asked Thomalla. “How much opportunity is there for governments to ‘manipulate’ the information in order to be seen to be doing something?”

For instance, a country might report to the HFA that it has established an early warning system to reduce hazard vulnerability. “But how can we be sure that the system works…? That people know how to respond to the warnings?” Thomalla said.

There is no proper baseline at the start of HFA, nor are there specific targets for countries to follow, said Singh.

“Targets and milestones for implementation should… be relevant and realistic for each country and agreed on through multi-stakeholder consultations,” noted Mitchell in a briefing paper co-authored with colleague Emily Wilkinson.

McFarlane and Mitchell suggest the development of a peer-review mechanism, which is just taking off in some developed countries, could be an effective way to ensure countries comply.

UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlstrom said there has been a change in mindset since HFA: “The most visible signs of this change are summarized by the facts that 121 countries have enacted legislation aimed at reducing the potential impact of disasters, and 56 countries have national disaster-loss databases, which illustrates the growing recognition that you cannot manage risk management if you are not measuring your disaster losses.”

Mitchell’s ODI briefing paper also suggests “a human rights approach, in which countries fulfil obligations to respect, protect and fulfil basic human rights, including the ‘right to safety’ of vulnerable people exposed to hazards.”

This suggestion has support. Singh says, “Legislation to ensure safety and security of people is a good first step.” But it has to be implemented effectively all the way down to the community level, and must take into account the voices of the poor and women, he added.

Thomalla says a rights-based approach would be a good way to address DRR “because many of the drivers of vulnerability result from inequality and marginalization, meaning certain regions and social groups are more vulnerable to hazards than others and are more strongly affected by the impacts.”

But, again, creating global legislation could be problematic, he noted. “Monitoring and enforcement will also be difficult. Rich countries must come forward to provide resources and transfer skills to developing countries to reduce disaster risks.”

Resilience is key

Most experts pin their hopes on the new-found interest in “building resilience”. Resilience is billed as a concept that will better link development, DRR and CCA by bringing the humanitarian aid community, which deals with disasters, closer together with development agencies. A focus on resilience might also help push for the implementation of DRR plans and promote funding.

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami helped disaster risk reduction get the attention it needed

“The current separation of what is mainly [a] humanitarian response to disasters, through DRR and CCA, from business-as-usual development funding no longer makes sense,” said Thomalla.

In fact, disasters routinely reverse development gains. For example, floods in Thailand in 2012 cost three percent of the country’s annual GDP, affected education and caused the loss of vulnerable families’ household assets.

“New development goals must factor in risk, whereby all goals, to the extent possible, are risk- informed,” said Antony Spalton, the DRR specialist with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “Given the significance of the risks posed by climate change, fragility and conflict, a post-2015 framework that better draws together DRR, climate change adaptation and conflict prevention/peace building under a goal or target for resilience could be considered.”

UNISDR has already drafted a resilience-based disaster plan for the post-2015 development agenda, the Plan of Action on Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilience. It calls for an assurance that “DRR for resilience” is central to post-2015 development agreements and targets. It calls for timely, coordinated and high-quality assistance to countries where disaster losses pose a threat to development, and for making DRR a priority for UN funds, programmes and specialized agencies.

Singh says countries “should develop a comprehensive resilience strategy rather than a piecemeal …strategy, when ‘pushed’ by donors.”

Building resilience to a range of changes and risks does make sense, according to Thomalla. But we have a long way to go.

“While we have made a lot of progress in thinking about resilience as a unifying concept, we need to strengthen our methods and tools to help… develop the institutions and governance structures that enhance resilience and enable them to measure and demonstrate success,” he said.

Ultimately, Singh says, “it all depends on the willingness of country governments to take concrete steps from local to national levels and enhance [the] resilience of poor and vulnerable communities.”

McFarlane says there are lots of ideas and suggestions on the table. Stay tuned.

jk/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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168 countries signs a 10-year plan to make the world safer from natural hazards

Posted by African Press International on May 17, 2013

JOHANNESBURG,  – A month after the Indian Ocean tsunami struck in December 2004, affecting millions, 168 countries signed on to a 10-year plan to make the world safer from natural hazards. Yet the plan, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015, focused primarily on “what to do to prevent disasters, but not enough on how to implement it,” says Neil McFarlane, chief coordinator and head of all regional programmes at the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

Countries have since begun discussing what a follow-up action plan, the Hyogo Framework for Action 2 (HFA2), should look like. The results of these talks, a sketch of the HFA2, will be presented at the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which begins in Geneva on 19 May.

A draft will be finalized towards the end of 2014, for consideration and adoption at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Japan in 2015.

The HFA2 will need to take on a number of emerging risks and concerns. While the HFA has helped countries reduce the loss of human lives, the economic consequences of natural disasters have continued to rise. For three consecutive years, natural hazards have cost the world more than US$100 billion a year, according to data from the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) released in March 2013.

Additionally, disaster risks are changing: The effects of the changing climate are expected to prompt more intense and frequent extreme natural events, including floods, droughts and cyclones. Urban populations are growing, as is demand for food, ratcheting up pressure on resources like land and water.

Accountability

In tackling the HFA2, experts are discussing how to improve accountability. “We have a framework with options to develop good disaster plans in the Hyogo, but how do we make governments, agencies… ensure it is implemented?” Tom Mitchell, head of the climate change programme at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), told IRIN.

Mitchell says one of the major weaknesses of the HFA is its failure to ensure that “well-crafted” disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies were actually implemented. The agreement is voluntary, and there are no penalties for failing to put in place measures to protect citizens.

“Because it [HFA] is voluntary, we have to ask how… effective it can be,” remarked Frank Thomalla, senior research fellow with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in Asia.

Some question whether the world should consider a legal disaster-prevention treaty with a provision for penalties.

The new plan’s timing is significant for the global community; 2015 also marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals and possibly the implementation of new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are still under discussion. A new agreement on addressing and adapting to climate change is also likely to be put into place around that time. Aid agencies and think tanks are all calling on the global community to consider the synergies among these policy-shaping developments.

Many observers now question whether DRR policies should become a part of the legal climate deal, which might ensure their implementation. Countries’ DRR activities are increasingly considered part of their climate change adaptation plans, and are being funded as such.

But there is no appetite for a legal treaty on DRR, says UNISDR’s McFarlane.

Harjeet Singh, ActionAid‘s international coordinator for DRR and climate change adaptation (CAA), says he is uncertain if a legal treaty “will bring about a dramatic change… After all, we have seen how [the UN’s] climate convention (UNFCCC) … failed to deliver in the last 20 years.”

Besides, the climate change deal will not consider geophysical events such as earthquakes and other triggers of potential disasters unrelated to climate, he added.

“Many of the drivers of vulnerability result from inequality and marginalization, meaning certain regions and social groups are more vulnerable to hazards than others and are more strongly affected by the impacts”

That fact, plus the range of social and economic factors contributing to disaster risk, calls into question the rationale for viewing DRR, CCA and development from a purely climatological perspective, SEI’s Thomalla told IRIN in an email.

But the Cancun Adaptation Framework adopted by countries at the UNFCCC talks in Mexico in 2010 urges countries to implement the HFA, so it does make it a part of a stronger commitment linked to climate change says UNISDR’s MacFarlane.

Taking measurements

Under the HFA, countries are required to report on how far they have complied with implementing DRR strategies and policies. But how “reliable is this data?” asked Thomalla. “How much opportunity is there for governments to ‘manipulate’ the information in order to be seen to be doing something?”

For instance, a country might report to the HFA that it has established an early warning system to reduce hazard vulnerability. “But how can we be sure that the system works…? That people know how to respond to the warnings?” Thomalla said.

There is no proper baseline at the start of HFA, nor are there specific targets for countries to follow, said Singh.

“Targets and milestones for implementation should… be relevant and realistic for each country and agreed on through multi-stakeholder consultations,” noted Mitchell in a briefing paper co-authored with colleague Emily Wilkinson.

McFarlane and Mitchell suggest the development of a peer-review mechanism, which is just taking off in some developed countries, could be an effective way to ensure countries comply.

UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlstrom said there has been a change in mindset since HFA: “The most visible signs of this change are summarized by the facts that 121 countries have enacted legislation aimed at reducing the potential impact of disasters, and 56 countries have national disaster-loss databases, which illustrates the growing recognition that you cannot manage risk management if you are not measuring your disaster losses.”

Mitchell’s ODI briefing paper also suggests “a human rights approach, in which countries fulfil obligations to respect, protect and fulfil basic human rights, including the ‘right to safety’ of vulnerable people exposed to hazards.”

This suggestion has support. Singh says, “Legislation to ensure safety and security of people is a good first step.” But it has to be implemented effectively all the way down to the community level, and must take into account the voices of the poor and women, he added.

Thomalla says a rights-based approach would be a good way to address DRR “because many of the drivers of vulnerability result from inequality and marginalization, meaning certain regions and social groups are more vulnerable to hazards than others and are more strongly affected by the impacts.”

But, again, creating global legislation could be problematic, he noted. “Monitoring and enforcement will also be difficult. Rich countries must come forward to provide resources and transfer skills to developing countries to reduce disaster risks.”

Resilience is key

Most experts pin their hopes on the new-found interest in “building resilience”. Resilience is billed as a concept that will better link development, DRR and CCA by bringing the humanitarian aid community, which deals with disasters, closer together with development agencies. A focus on resilience might also help push for the implementation of DRR plans and promote funding.

“The current separation of what is mainly [a] humanitarian response to disasters, through DRR and CCA, from business-as-usual development funding no longer makes sense,” said Thomalla.

In fact, disasters routinely reverse development gains. For example, floods in Thailand in 2012 cost three percent of the country’s annual GDP, affected education and caused the loss of vulnerable families’ household assets.

“New development goals must factor in risk, whereby all goals, to the extent possible, are risk- informed,” said Antony Spalton, the DRR specialist with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “Given the significance of the risks posed by climate change, fragility and conflict, a post-2015 framework that better draws together DRR, climate change adaptation and conflict prevention/peace building under a goal or target for resilience could be considered.”

UNISDR has already drafted a resilience-based disaster plan for the post-2015 development agenda, the Plan of Action on Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilience. It calls for an assurance that “DRR for resilience” is central to post-2015 development agreements and targets. It calls for timely, coordinated and high-quality assistance to countries where disaster losses pose a threat to development, and for making DRR a priority for UN funds, programmes and specialized agencies.

Singh says countries “should develop a comprehensive resilience strategy rather than a piecemeal …strategy, when ‘pushed’ by donors.”

Building resilience to a range of changes and risks does make sense, according to Thomalla. But we have a long way to go.

“While we have made a lot of progress in thinking about resilience as a unifying concept, we need to strengthen our methods and tools to help… develop the institutions and governance structures that enhance resilience and enable them to measure and demonstrate success,” he said.

Ultimately, Singh says, “it all depends on the willingness of country governments to take concrete steps from local to national levels and enhance [the] resilience of poor and vulnerable communities.”

McFarlane says there are lots of ideas and suggestions on the table. Stay tuned.

jk/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

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