Climate change causes community conflict says Minister
By Denis McClean
ARUSHA, 13 February 2013 - Speaking at the opening of the 4th Africa Regional Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction, the Tanzanian Minister for the Environment, Dr. Terezya Huvisa Luoga, expressed her fears that climate change could cause community conflict in her country.
Dr. Huvisa who is also President of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), said: "In AMCEN we are so much concerned about disasters caused by climate change in our countries. Climate change disasters faced by Tanzanians and all Africans are threatening the lives and sustainable development of the African continent.
"In Tanzania we are experiencing outbreaks of violence between the livestock keepers and the farmers as water shortages force livestock keepers to move south onto farmlands. I would like this conference to address seriously the issue of disasters being caused by climate change."
The Minister said she had little hope that the climate change conferences would bring solutions anytime soon and appealed to the world and the UN family to give climate change the same attention that has been given to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
"We need funds for adaptation, we need funds for mitigation and we also need funds so those who have been hit by disasters can restore their livelihoods."
She said the existing international framework for disaster risk reduction known as the Hyogo Framework for Action had "served our country as main point of reference in devising and reviewing plans, policy program and strategy on Disaster Risk Reduction."
Dr. Huvisa stated that the United Republic of Tanzania is in the process of revitalizing the institutional capacity for disaster risk reduction by formulating a new Act that will provide more autonomy at the local level. This would support the efforts of the country's national platform for disaster risk reduction.
The government is also integrating disaster risk reduction, environmental sustainability and climate change adaptation and mitigation into the Second National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty, the Five Year Development Plan and the Zanzibar strategy for economic growth which will be implemented up to 2015. She also emphasized the importance the government attached to building resilience at local level "so that we can have disaster resilient villages."
She hoped that the Africa Regional Platform "could contribute much to post Hyogo agenda and particularly DRR issues in Africa continent."
Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, the African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, reminded the opening plenary that the role of the Africa Regional Platform is "to function as the primary regional mechanism to support the implementation of disaster risk reduction strategies and programmes at regional, sub-regional and national levels, to monitor progress and to facilitate co-ordination and information sharing between governments, sub-regional organizations and UN Agencies."
Commissioner Rhoda Peace said she expected to learn more during the Platform through Regional Economic Communities and AU member States about progress in decentralizing disaster risk reduction activities to community level. The extent of member states' investments in DRR, progress made by humanitarian organizations in increasing their resource allocations to DRR to 10 per cent."
Speaking to journalists after the opening, UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlström said that water shortages and other contributors to disaster risk did not have to lead to conflict and that Africa was well endowed with regional mechanisms such as the network of regional Economic Communities to avoid conflict over sharing natural resources.
Ms. Wahlström told the opening plenary: "This is a moment when we are coming together. We are in a very critical period when we can take that critical next leap into practical action and when we can deal with the many challenges. Today disaster risk is developing faster than our ability to manage it.
"The consultations which are taking place here are vitally important as a contribution to the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction which will take place in Geneva in May. We cannot move forward and develop a new international framework for disaster risk reduction in 2015 if we do not take stock of where we have come from and what we have achieved in implementing the existing agreement, the Hyogo Framework for Action."