Maldives advances its disaster and climate resilience agenda

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Asia and Pacific UNDRR Bonn Office
Photo of Minister of Defence, Ms Uza. Mariya Didi, at the national workshop
Minister of Defence, Ms Uza. Mariya Didi, inaugurated the national workshop

As a small island developing state, the Maldives is among the most at-risk countries to the impacts of climate change. With 80% of its population living less than one metre above sea level, the climate emergency is an existential threat for the Maldives, driving increasingly severe hazards such as floods, strong winds, swells, and storm surges. Increasing risks are challenging the response and recovery capabilities of communities and threatening to undermine their resilience.

Recognizing that climate change is altering the face of disaster risk and increasing societal vulnerabilities, the Government of Maldives is taking steps to strengthen its policy and governance mechanisms to accelerate resilience building. This commitment takes forward the policy objectives identified in the Strategic Action Plan for the Maldives on strengthening the national institutional framework on disaster risk reduction and climate resilience.

Building on this progress, the Government of Maldives organized a national workshop, with support from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), to kick-start the process of developing an integrated disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategy. The strategy will aim to offer a common basis for coordinated implementation across sectors and levels and build on a shared understanding of disaster and climate risk.

Inaugurating the event, H.E. Ms Uza. Mariya Didi, Minister of Defence, said: “As we enter an era of climate security, small island states like Maldives cannot ignore the cascading and compounding nature of disaster risks. After all, we are at ground zero for the global climate catastrophe.”

Participants from several government ministries and offices, local councils, national and international organisations underscored the importance of multi-sector and multi-partner coordination. Presentations and discussions covered the risk profile of the Maldives, policies and strategies relevant to building resilience, including in the health and education sectors, comprehensive disaster and climate risk management and its integration into budgets, and addressing capacity and financing needs – all part of UNDRR’s technical support approach to countries.

“Improving our understanding of risk and applying integrated approaches for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction is no longer optional, but an imperative. Only through such approaches can we effectively prevent and reduce risks of disasters and extreme events, while strengthening our preparedness and response capabilities”, said Dr Animesh Kumar, Head of UNDRR Office in Bonn, who was part of the UNDRR team of risk and policy experts.

To ensure that national planning considers local resilience priorities and supports decentralized risk management, local council representatives and the Local Government Authority were invited to share their challenges and priorities in addressing current and future risks. Kulhudhufushi City Council officer, Ms. Athifa Ali, shared the results of a recently completed self-assessment on the city’s resilience to climate and disasters. Kulhudhufushi City, with the support of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), has become the first city in the Maldives to join Making Cities Resilient 2030 (MCR2030), a global UNDRR-led initiative to enable local resilience.

Participants developed a concrete action plan for the integrated disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategy, backed by coordination mechanisms to drive implementation across government agencies and with partners.

The workshop was followed by a one-day training for ministry representatives on risk analysis methods and governance of risk data. Participants explored opportunities to build a common understanding of the risks facing the Maldives, including ways to improve shared access across government to climate and risk information to help guide planning, investment, and early warning. Participants had the opportunity to explore the Risk Information Exchange (RiX), a new online service that leverages digital innovation to improve access to the best available climate, hazard and risk information. Mr. Umar Fikry, Deputy Chief of the National Disaster Management Authority, said, “The Risk Information Exchange will be a game changer for the Maldives.”

With the vivid memory of swell wave surges that inundated several communities and affected numerous households in the Southern Atolls in the days prior to the workshop, the participants recognized the urgency of proactive risk management. The communities do not want to rely only on warning signs to take action, but also want to address the vulnerabilities that have been created, such as through mangrove deforestation or risk blind construction practices.

Thanking UNDRR for its support, Mr Hisan Hasan, Chief Executive of the National Disaster Management Authority of Maldives, said, “The workshop and follow-up processes will strengthen our existing strategy of institutionalizing and mainstreaming disaster risk reduction across all levels of government and society. It would also allow us to have a good disaster risk management policy discourse while planning for a climate-uncertain future.” 

In the coming months, through the CADRI Partnership, a comprehensive national capacity diagnosis will be conducted to deepen the understanding of the country's systems for risk management and its capacity development needs to ensure development is risk-informed at all levels and for all sectors.

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