Global Policy Forum

Climate Change: UN Agencies Working in Unison Would Do Better

UN agencies should work together to respond to the challenge of climate change. The competition for limited funds has hampered UN agencies from taking collaborative action to assist countries in developing climate change programmes. Country Director of the World Food Program in Uganda, Stanlake Samkange, says that proposals for a UN Multi-donor Fund for climate change must be approved urgently in order for funding problems to be resolved. Uganda and Ethiopia are the only two countries where the UN works with the government to address the impact of climate change.



December 9, 2010


Competition between UN agencies for limited funds, sometimes involving donors, hampered the UN in responding cohesively as "one organization" to help countries develop climate change programmes, said a senior official.

In a session on the sidelines of the UN climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico, on how the UN system has been taking action to help countries adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and manage climate-related risks, Stanlake Samkange, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) country director in Uganda, spoke candidly about his experience in the East African country.

"It is a matter of urgency that the proposal for a UN Multi-donor Fund for climate change programmes [by UN agencies] be approved so most of these problems will be resolved," he told IRIN. The modalities for the global UN fund were still being worked out at the UN headquarters in New York.

Uganda is the only country besides Ethiopia where the UN runs a programme with the government to address the impact of climate change, said Samkange, who is also joint coordinator of the initiative.

He said "temptation" on the part of some UN agencies to raise funds on their own, and efforts by some donors to "try to separate us" because of their own agendas, created problems initially for the agencies.

Samkange said his agency had been offered funds for a climate change adaptation programme on condition that it was run exclusively by WFP, but he turned it down as elements of the project fell within the mandate of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). "We took a position that we would not get distracted by any money thrown our way."

Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, who chaired the session, remarked that sometimes even countries had been caught between competing UN agencies.

As part of Uganda's climate change programme, WFP is shifting focus to food security, Samkange said. The agency has been running a food aid programme for the past 40 years in Karamoja - a semi-arid region in northeastern Uganda that has faced at least 14 droughts in 25 years. "Our emergency programme in Karamoja will come to an end this year [2010] and we will spend our funds on development projects," Samkange said.

Other problems

Representatives from other leading UN agencies - including the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction - told the session that efforts were being made to work in a concerted manner.

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said it was important to build a sound information bank to assist any programme aimed at addressing the impacts of climate change.

By 2030 most people in all developing countries will live in urban areas, according to UN Population Fund (UNFPA) projections. UN-Habitat estimated that the slum population in Sub-Saharan countries had doubled between 1990 and 2005, when it reached 200 million

Auxmite Gebre-Egziabher of UN-Habitat noted that policy-makers often neglected urban settlements, particularly slums, although these areas were among the most vulnerable to climate-related risks.

Most of the urban poor end up living on the fringes of cities and towns along the coast, on river banks or beside river beds exposed to flooding and storms. The floods in Pakistan, which displaced several million urban poor living along the Indus River and its tributaries, were a vivid reminder.

Gebre-Egziabher suggested that "We need to conduct city-wide vulnerability assessments to enhance the resilience of slum settlements."


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