“The opportunity to meet with communities affected by this prolonged drought has allowed me to witness first-hand the challenges they are facing”
The United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate, Ambassador Macharia Kamau, has concluded his fact finding mission to Papua New Guinea and departed on 2nd July to Timor-Leste. Papua New Guinea was chosen as the first country for the newly-appointed Special Envoy’s mission in the world and provided the mission team with an opportunity to understand the challenges and priorities of drought-affected communities following the El Nino phenomenon. During last week’s visit the Special Envoy met with government officials and partner agencies and visited drought-affected outer islands, exchanging lessons learned at the community, national and international levels.
Out of several events completed, the field visit to the Trobriand Islands in Milne Bay was a key highlight. Welcomed by rich traditional hospitality of islanders as he first stepped on the land, Ambassador Kamau was met by large numbers of community members, who shared their stories and difficulties experienced during the recent drought. Mr. Kamau also inquired about outstanding immediate and longer-term recovery needs of the islanders.
“The opportunity to meet with communities affected by this prolonged drought has allowed me to witness first-hand the challenges they are facing. Drought is not a new phenomenon for Papua New Guinea – and the communities from the Trobriand Island that we met are extremely resilient. But the scale and duration of the El Niño-linked drought has challenged even the strongest communities,” said Ambassador Kamau.
While amazed by the resilience to overcome crisis which the community had exhibited, the ambassador stressed the need to intensify efforts to support community preparedness and resilience building, with a particular focus on developing ‘climate proof’ agricultural and water supply solutions.
“This ‘new normal’ demands new ways of preparing for extreme weather events – and new approaches by communities, governments and the international community that reflect the deeply-integrated challenges of long-term development, resilience building and disaster risk reduction, including humanitarian response,” added the Ambassador. In his meetings with government and humanitarian responders, the UN Special Envoy also emphasised the importance of sustained and expanded partnerships for community resilience building.
The UN Special Envoy further stressed the linkages between disaster risk management and the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by world leaders to transform the world by 2030. Given the increasing frequency of climate events, the Special Envoy encouraged the government, UN agencies, and partner organisations to change their way of doing business to address humanitarian and development issues. He also brought a warning that all stakeholders and people must prepare for potential heavy rains and floods brought by a possible La Niña event, which may develop in the coming months.
After his visit to Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea, the UN Special Envoy will be taking his findings to the world this week at a high-level meetings at the UN agency headquarters in Rome, Italy. He will also be reporting back to the UN General Assembly later this year, to raise more resources for short-term and long-term relief and resilience-building measures necessitated across the globe.
Ambassador Macharia Kamau has served as Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York since 2010. He is an international relations practitioner with broad experience in international development policy, environment and sustainable development, strategic planning and communication. He has served for over 24 years in various senior positions within the UN, including senior country leadership and management roles in UNDP and UNICEF in various countries in Africa, the Caribbean and New York. He has been appointed by the UN Secretary General as his Special Envoy on El Nino and Climate since May 2016.
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Chika Kondoh, Communications Specialist at the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office (UNRCO)
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