The Harbin Alliance is a worldwide partnership of ten NGOs, UN bodies, intergovernmental bodies and research organisations: Asia Disaster Preparedness Centre, Asia Disaster Reduction Centre, Care International, Climate Action Network South Asia, Climate Action Network South East Asia, International Disaster Reduction Conference, Prevention Consortium, Oxfam Hong Kong, UNDP Special Unit for South-South Cooperation and UN/ISDR (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction).
It all began 2007, at the IDRC regional conference in Harbin, China on disaster risk reduction. Oxfam Hong Kong led a discussion about the importance of integrating climate change in disaster response, and we brought together internationally regarded experts in and practitioners of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
How do the two fields overlap? How is adapting to climate change related to reducing risks in a disaster? Both address the many risks in emergencies, such as cyclones, floods and droughts; and both aim to reduce the vulnerability of people, as well as their animals and crops, yet, there are several differences that have often kept the two groups apart. The two groups, for instance, can use very different language to discuss their work. People working on climate change adaptation usually use longer time frames and see risks over a period of time, whereas people in disaster risk reduction work usually describe situations in shorter time frames. Oxfam Hong Kong led that meeting in Harbin to try to facilitate a closer link. We wanted to facilitate more communication and better information exchange between the two groups, so that development policies would not be conflicting, and disaster management and short- or long-term development projects would be sustainable.
The Alliance has meshed well. So far, the members negotiated ahead of and during the UN climate change meeting in Bali in December 2007, and they are currently preparing the report, "Global Linkages between Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation - Can two roads become one?".
In general, the work of the Alliance includes:
- Promoting best practices by sharing, analysing and disseminating information
- Engaging policy-makers and practitioners on the benefits of synergising the two fields
- New research
- Lobbying the UN that disaster risk reduction is the first and foremost strategy to address climate change
- Build up a critical mass of disaster risk reduction practitioners who understand climate change negotiations, in particular the UN climate change adaptation framework
By Sahba Chauhan, Oxfam Hong Kong