World Disasters Report 2020 highlights role of smart financing and space-based information in humanitarian response

A new report by the world’s largest humanitarian aid network highlights global disasters, populations most vulnerable to them and the efforts of local institutions in preventing, preparing for and responding to them. The 2020 edition of the World Disasters Report, “Come Heat or High Water”, was launched virtually from the offices of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Vienna on November 16. This year’s report discusses climate- and weather-related disasters and their humanitarian impact. It argues for the usefulness of smart financing and space-based information in disaster management support.

The report warns that the global effort to address climate change is leaving behind countries most vulnerable to climate- and weather-related disasters. It mentions that the international community is failing to protect the people in those countries from the devastating effects of climate change because only a portion of the funds allocated for climate change adaptation reaches countries most impacted by climate- and weather-related disasters. According to the report, none of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change and to climate- and weather-related disasters were among the 20 highest per person recipients of climate change adaptation funding. The Secretary General of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Jagan Chapagain, described this issue as a “clear disconnection” that “very well cost lives”.

The report further notes that once this primary obstacle is mounted - and the money is allocated to the countries most vulnerable to climate- and weather-related disaster- the challenge of supplying the people in at-risk communities within these countries with the necessary funding remains. Oftentimes, people in these communities are marginalized or displaced and may struggle to access the necessary services. Likewise, the insecurity of conflict in particular at-risk communities adds to the difficulty of reaching the people with funding who need it the most.

The report recommends the introduction of smart financing to address the issues highlighted above. According to the report, smart financing allows the international donor community to direct money to where it is most necessary by focusing on the “how” and “where” and not the “how much”.  In case of funding climate change adaptation, this means taking a more holistic approach: prioritizing funds to countries most at risk and ensuring it reaches the people in those countries is only possible by integrating local expertise of people from at risk communities into the funding strategy development and process.

The report also addresses the usefulness of utilizing space-based information to cope with the rising threat of climate- and weather-related disasters. In this context, the report features the work of UN-SPIDER, a programme of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). The report highlights that the work of UN-SPIDER is crucial in reducing the risk of and building resilience to climate- and weather related disasters facing the global population. The immediate and costless access to critical satellite images and information provided by UN-SPIDER supports disaster management agencies globally in the full disaster management cycle and is critical in ensuring an effective management approach to climate and weather-related disasters.