Historisk arkiv

Opening address at the Oslo Policy Forum on Changing the Way We Develop: Dealing with Disasters and Climate Change

Historisk arkiv

Publisert under: Regjeringen Stoltenberg II

Utgiver: Utenriksdepartementet

Oslo, 28 February 2008

We are in Oslo, and we would like to see this conference as one of the transition stations on the road from Kobe via Bali to Copenhagen – and beyond, Foreign Minister Støre said when he opened the Oslo Policy Forum.

Check against delivery

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to Oslo and to this conference, which will focus on the political challenges behind the images you just saw on the screen.

Take a look at this picture. A man struggling to cross a wild river. The river banks are gone, as are the people who lived there and their homes.

The train line is barely hanging together. His life is hanging in the balance.

But his family, job and the local market could well be on the other side.

And the question we ask ourselves is: Will he make it?

This picture could have been taken in India. Or Bangladesh. Or China. Or Vietnam. Or Zambia.

A frozen image of the devastating human suffering and economic consequences that humanitarian disasters entail.

And there are no short cuts.

Greenpeace has coined the phrase “weather of mass destruction”.

This is a snapshot of its collateral damage.


We are in Oslo, and we would like to see this conference as one of the transition stations on the road from Kobe via Bali to Copenhagen – and beyond.

The Norwegian Government is committed to the implementation of the Bali Action From left: Foreign Minister Støre, Veerle Vandeweerd, UNDP, Jan Egeland, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and Ian O'Donnell, ProVention. Photo: Pierre de Brisis, MFAPlan. We have pledged to fulfil our Kyoto obligations plus an extra 10 per cent. And we will seek to strengthen inter-national cooperation on adaptation measures.

We want to increase focus on what all of us need to do to prevent this man from falling.

The reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have shown that some of the most dramatic effects of climate change will occur in regions that already have serious problems. They are characterised by weak governance structures, environmental degradation, poverty and violent conflict. And to that we now have to add the accelerating effects of climate change. We know all too well that any disaster – whether linked to climate change or not – will be harder to handle for these countries.


Let me give you a few more snapshots:

  • 400 natural disasters reported last year,
  • a sharp increase in the number of floods, particularly in Asia, but also in Africa,
  • some 16 000 people killed,
  • 197 million people affected,
  • 14 out of 15 UN Flash Appeals related to climate change,
  • current trends consistent with IPCC predictions, and
  • damage totalling more than USD 60 billion from disasters caused by natural hazards.

That was in 2007.

And we have every reason to fear that 2008 will bring more storms, heavy rain, floods, droughts and heat waves.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has pointed out that progress on the Millennium Development Goals is “a development emergency”.

On top of this, climate change is altering the face of disaster risk.

We may, as a result, be facing extreme long-term vulnerabilities on an unprecedented scale.

We see the emerging consequences: already, rapidly expanding humanitarian budgets are unable to keep up with the rise in humanitarian needs triggered by the increase in disasters around the world.

Soaring food prices and increasing populations, particularly in the world’s cities, will further widen the funding gap.

We therefore need to see more proactive and concerted initiatives on adaptation in the years leading up to 2015.

If not – if we save and protect more people but allow their livelihoods to be washed away – we will indirectly create more vulnerability and poverty.

This is why we have gathered in Oslo this week:

To come up with some of the policy answers to these challenges and to commit ourselves to them;

To make a push for more adaptation efforts at community level, so that we can make a difference for the most vulnerable;

And to consider guidelines that can help as a reference for new and improved policies.


Let me then turn to another key question: What about conflicts?

Will climate change lead to more violent conflict and wars?

We do not know.

There is no consensus on whether climate wars are already breaking out or not. But we do know that age-old tensions related to scarce grazing land, drying oases and shrinking agricultural areas are aggravated by persistent droughts in the Sahel.

Existing conflicts are worsening.

Climate change did not create the Darfur crisis. People did.

But peace and reconciliation will not come about in Sudan unless the problems of worsening livelihoods for pastoral farmers and nomadic herdsmen are addressed through government actions, development initiatives and environmental investment.

We may not be seeing new inter-state wars, but we need to understand the emerging insecurities at the local, sub-national level – like in Darfur.

And for those who have seen Al Gore’s presentation of the Inconvenient Truth will remember the link he made between climate change visible in the Arctic and the drying out of Lake Chad. These are effects of the same global challenge – with different consequences close to the North Pole and at the centre of Africa.

Each of use can draw our own conclusions about what consequences the drying out of Lake Chad will have for all those whose livelihoods traditionally depend on these water sources in the centre of Africa.

What social groups are facing greater marginalisation and discrimination as a result of climate change?

What about displacement and migration?

What about gender issues?

We must make sure that we choose the right level of analysis in order to respond wisely to future security concerns.


We must also build on the proactive agenda that is driving ongoing work on disaster risk reduction – so that adaptation and risk management serve as agents for progressive development.

And we must remember that even countries with sound governance structures and adequate financial resources are struggling to cope with the new challenges of the 21st century.

The US is not a fragile state. But ask the people of Louisiana what they think.

Risk reduction efforts challenge traditional views on governance. Democracies are not always the best at disaster management.

Africa and the Arctic, as well as the greater Himalayan region, are among the regions of the world that will experience the harshest effects of climate change.

In the North, as I said, the melting ice cap poses challenges as well as offering opportunities. The traditional livelihoods and cultures of indigenous peoples, like the Inuit, are threatened. But the prospects of navigating the polar seas could open up new chapters of trade and development, linking China, Russia and Europe closer together.

For vulnerable groups in the South, however, climate change is a question of life and death. The brutal paradox is that the most vulnerable societies have contributed relatively little to global warming.

They cannot shoulder this burden on their own.

Rich and industrialised nations – including my own – must take the lead and bear the heaviest burden.

But in addition we need practical recommendations on how to integrate disaster and climate risk management into development planning and policy.

And we need knowledge.

We need to accumulate country-based experience of how adaptation to climate change can best be implemented – at different levels of government.

Because we have to mitigate and adapt at the same time. We have to mainstream and coordinate. We have to plan and govern. And we have to govern well.

Currently donors are highly committed to both disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change. But the challenge is to maintain this level of commitment between now and 2009 – and after.


Of course, funding is key but not enough.

National governments are responsible for defining and developing procedures and measures for strengthening disaster risk reduction as defined by the Hyogo Framework for Action.

UN agencies, the World Bank and other international organisations are supporting this process. As are donors.

But the solutions that are designed globally have to be delivered locally.

It is vital to assess the progress made so far, and we are pleased that the first biennial Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction has been commissioned.

As we reflect on the outcome of this assessment and other upcoming reviews, I believe that we must be more sensitive to the limited administrative capacities at the local level, as well as to the challenges posed by the informal nature of vulnerable settlements and livelihoods.

National policy frameworks, supported by international agencies, tend to have limited applicability in the areas where disaster risk is currently increasing, such as rapidly growing cities and remote rural areas.

Moreover, institutional silos must be broken down, for the collective good. Coordination across sectors is crucial.

How can we work on these problems together?  That is another question that I hope this conference will help us all to address.


Norway’s ambition is to build new long-term partnerships on adaptation to climate change, disaster risk reduction and conflict management – bilaterally, multilaterally and regionally – and to stimulate South-South cooperation.

Several of our partners are represented at this conference.

We are committed to taking the global challenges of disaster risk reduction seriously.

And for that reason, I believe we have to change the architecture of both foreign policy and development cooperation.

We need to attune international action better to the needs and plans of local partners and national governments. It is those of you who are worst affected by the problems, who have ownership to the solutions.

Adaptive capacity is closely connected to social and economic development, as the IPCC’s synthesis report pointed out.

The humanitarian community needs to engage more closely with development partners.

We need to understand the barriers, limits and costs we are up against.

We need to develop norms, recommendations and guidelines.

We must stop getting caught up in the differences between adaptation to climate change and disaster risk reduction. 

And we should consider whether there are a few priority areas that should be given more attention in the short term than others.


Across the relief-to-development spectrum, we need to pay greater attention to the basic welfare needs of populations living in difficult environments.

More than anything, what the man on the screen needs is a safety net – not only to protect him from falling here and now, but to also to make him better equipped to meet future challenges.

We must strive to achieve convergence in relation to risk reduction just as we are seeking to attain carbon footprint convergence. No less.

Before I conclude, I would like to thank our co-organisers UNDP and ProVention for their invaluable contribution to this policy forum.

I hope you will all find this working session useful and inspiring.

Thank you.