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World Humanitarian Day 2021: Engaging the Private Sector to Tackle the Climate Crisis

Disasters don't discriminate. Neither does the climate crisis, as recent floods around the world -- including Germany, Belgium, India, and China to name but a few-- have reminded us.

World Humanitarian Day, marked on August 19th, focuses this year on the climate emergency and its impacts on the lives and livelihoods of people affected by crises, urging world leaders to take action and support the most affected communities. To win the race to address the climate crisis, we need to take a whole-of-society approach that involves the private sector in disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

Engaging with local actors in the front lines of the climate emergency

The Connecting Business initiative (CBi) was created to support businesses before, during, and after disasters. Almost all of our private sector Member Networks are in countries that are already on the front line of the climate crisis.

Madagascar, for example, is facing its worst drought in decades. More than 1.1 million people in the country's Grand Sud region are currently experiencing catastrophic levels of hunger, according to the IPC Acute Food Insecurity Analysis, with one district at risk of famine. The crisis, caused by insufficient rainfall, rising food prices and sandstorms, is directly linked to the impacts of climate change. CBi's partner in the country, the Private Sector Humanitarian Platform (PSHP) Madagascar, is involved in the national emergency response and supports the distribution of food aid and other emergency assistance to affected communities. The network also works with local partners on adaptation projects to support community resilience, for example through improved water supply.

"As disasters threaten the stability of community development as well as the safety of private sector workers, we witness the power of social engagement in risk reduction and mitigation," says Isabelle Salabert, PSHP President.

Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and the Asia-Pacific region is one of the world's most affected. Seven out of ten countries at greatest risk of climate-related disasters globally are in Asia and the Pacific, and three of these are small Pacific Island states.

In Sri Lanka, CBi Member Network the Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Risk Management Sri Lanka (A-PAD SL) is building community resilience and helping improve disaster preparedness. For several years now, they've been collaborating with the military to organize world-class trainings in swift water search and rescue operations.

"In the race to address the climate crisis, A-PAD SL in partnership with CBi has encouraged multi-sectoral commitment in mitigating and adapting efforts for long term business resilience and human development," said Firzan Hashim, A-PAD SL Country Director.

In Côte d'Ivoire, extreme weather events, including flooding and droughts, are more frequent and severe, while the pressure on the land is exacerbated by conflict and instability. The private sector is deeply impacted, and CBi Member Network the Plateforme humanitaire du secteur privé de la Côte d'Ivoire, hosted by the Confédération Générale des Entreprises de Côte d'Ivoire (CGECI), is working with local stakeholders to improve business continuity planning and resilience.

The private sector at the forefront of localization efforts

"One of the advantages of activating the private sector is that we're already situated in the communities. We speak the local languages, and it's normal for us to be working on the logistics of bringing goods into remote communities" says Nicola Barnes from the CBi Member Network the Vanuatu Business Resilience Council (VBRC).

When Tropical Cyclone Harold hit Vanuatu in 2020, borders were closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Without the usual external assistance, there was no option but to lead a localized response. The private sector, under the coordination of VBRC, played a key role.

Partnering with the private sector contributes to more resilient societies and ensures that the response to the climate crisis is both sustainable and localized.

In Turkey, CBi Member Network, the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (TÜRKONFED) and the Business for Goals Platform are working with more than 40,000 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to build local capacity for disaster preparedness and recovery. During the COVID-19 pandemic, several of the network's members have initiated innovative projects to support local communities and particularly women and girls.

"Climate change and its unprecedented effects expose humanity to mounting disaster risks. To take action towards this complex and multi-layered issue, the Business for Goals Platform, as part of the Connecting Business initiative in Turkey, will continue its efforts to strengthen the cooperation of the private sector, civil society, and public institutions as well as to generate concrete outcomes in terms of climate and disaster resilience," states Simay Kardes, Business for Goals Associate Director.

In the Philippines, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), a business-led coordination platform, is taking the lead in the country to spearhead private sector involvement in disaster risk reduction and management, working in close collaboration with the humanitarian community. PDRF operates the first private sector-led Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the entire Asia-Pacific region. The network is also leading the way in sharing best practices and experience with other networks worldwide, developing business continuity toolkits and course modules.

CBi Member Networks in Fiji and Mexico are also strongly engaged in local preparedness and response efforts, with activities ranging from networking with Pacific organizations to supporting Haiti with practical knowledge sharing around earthquake response and preparedness.

To win the race against the climate crisis, we must make sure we leave no one behind, and that means involving local businesses early on in resilience and adaptation efforts, and in the disaster response and recovery. To build forward better, a collaborative and multisectoral approach is key.