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  • What if preparedness action was informed by forecasts?

    Imagine if we had forecast information that a flood disaster was likely to strike a particular location and we could anticipate the rain coming but were unable to do anything in that small window of opportunity. It would make sense if we were able to take early action and help vulnerable communities prepare before a disaster event based upon the available forecast information. Forecast based Financing (FbF) is a niche concept in the humanitarian sector that allows us to take actions based upon the best science ahead of time when it is not too late to respond.

    FbF combines disaster management and climate research where scientific weather forecasts are used to anticipate possible impacts in high risk areas and predefined plans automatically mobilizes resources before a disaster event.

     

     

    Current preparedness plans are often normative and based upon the average level of risks though there is a huge potential to scale up humanitarian actions when science indicates the increased level of risks regarding impending hazards. So far the policy directives have increasingly spurred investment in improving preparedness, enhancing existing early warning systems and response initiatives. But it has clearly overlooked much needed linkages between early warning and early actions for improved preparedness and response.

    FbF triggers early action based on forecasts, bridging the gaps between preparedness, disaster risk reduction and emergency response. Likewise, FbF also supports the Sendai Framework’s emphasis on the paradigm shift towards risk management and mobilizing investments to avoid new risks.

     

    Practical Action Consulting (PAC) is currently providing Technical Assistance (TA) to the World Food Programme (WFP) Nepal  in reviewing climate risks and flood early warning systems of Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Surkhet, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts  in Western  Nepal. The engagement will seek to develop dynamic Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) where thresholds triggers flood preparedness actions in the aforementioned districts.

    With contributions from Madhab Uprety – DRR Consultant at PAC

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  • Communities building resilience


    January 9th, 2017

    Bangladesh has a population of 16 million in a small area. It is on a journey with the aim of becoming a developed country. Apart from the challenges and barriers, Bangladesh has become better known globally for using  effective measures to build more resilient communities.

    Being a delta country, Bangladesh is vulnerable to natural hazards such as floods, riverbank erosion, cyclones and drought. All these hazards are expected to increase in intensity and frequency under a changing climate. In addition, increased temperature, erratic monsoon rainfall, sea level rise and salinity intrusion not only increase the frequency and impact of hazards to become more dangerous but also are expected to have a serious effect on lives, livelihoods and food security.

    resilience

    So it is vital in Bangladesh to build communities that make lives and livelihoods more sustainable.

    But do we give equal attention to the people who live in these communities and to society as a whole? “Sometime yes but sometime no” is the reply from those of us who work in this field.  And there are are a few reasons for saying that that. Community based organizations (CBOs) play a major role in building resilience by performing two major activities.

    Firstly they organise community meetings to discuss issues, to raise awareness, to review action plans, prepare plans in advance for disaster emergency fund and many other things.

    Secondly they are active in response to a disaster by helping in the distribution and management of relief, saving lives from the disaster and sheltering affected people.

    CBOs also look after income generating activities, social welfare, deal with social crises, network with service providers and much more.  This emphasis on community led work through mobilizing to build better resilience is where the community based organization provides a vital platform for a vulnerable community to take the initiative in capacity building alongside both Government and Non-Government Organizations.

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  • Bidding adieu to 2016 : 10 best examples of practical solutions from India

    Ananta Prasad

    December 30th, 2016

    With a number of challenges on the field and off the field, the team in India has managed to deliver some good sustainable practical solutions in last couple of years. Moving ahead for an eventful 2017 and with added challenges and milestones, I thought of ending the year with looking back at the sustainable practical solutions we have served so far.

    Development is a process as we all know and in Practical Action the biggest learning so far I have got is how to make this process a sustainable one. Here I have documented 10 different projects and interventions which have been sustainable or aiming at sustainability delivering practical solutions.

    1. ACCESS cook stoves

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    Access Grameen Mahila Udyog, in Koraput which is nurtured by Practical Action has been instrumental in manufacturing and marketing of improved cook stoves. The cook stoves generate less smoke, save fuel and time.

    It has contributed to less carbon emission and has resulted in healthier living environment in rural tribal houses.

    2. SOURA RATH (Solar Power Cart)

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    Practical Action India developed a portable solar-powered cart (Mobile Solar Energy System) that provides energy for 72 hours to power mobile phones, laptops, lights and water pumps. The cart can serve up to a capacity of 5KW and can be used during the post-disaster emergency and is easy to be relocated from one place to another.

    This model is applauded by Government of Odisha and is now being showcased at the Solar Park for public. We strongly feel this can add value to the cyclone shelter houses if used appropriately

    3. SUNOLO SAKHI 

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    Young girls and women in 60 slums of Bhubaneswar have formed Sakhi Clubs and spreading the knowledge on menstrual hygiene among other girls and peers. Our innovative radio Programme ‘Sunolo Sakhi’ has broken the taboo and enabled a conducive environment for discussion on menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls. The first ever radio show on menstrual hygiene Sunolo Sakhi is instrumental in bringing about change in the menstrual hygiene practices and behaviour of these young girls resulting in better health.

    The comprehensive programme Sunolo Sakhi is also providing Audio book for visually challenged and video book for hearing and speech impaired girls in the State.

    4.  COMMUNITY GOVERNANCE 

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    Community led water management has helped this tribal village Sundertaila in Nayagarh district to be self-sufficient in getting clean drinking water. Not only practical solutions but introducing user friendly and sustainable technology options at the last mile and serving them with basic needs is something what Practical Action tries to invest in its program efforts.

    5. SMRE

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    18 years old Sunil Tadingi of Badamanjari is now a successful entrepreneur and continues education in Semiliguda College. Despite all odds he is able to mark this achievement as his village is now electrified with the help of a self-sustained micro hydro power generation unit.

    Badamanjari has set an example in Koraput district by generating around 40KW electricity to provide light to all the households of the village and people are able to watch TV and use fans as well. Rice hauler and turmeric processing units are also running with additional energy generated, as a result creating entrepreneurs like Sunil.

    6. Small wind energy systems (SWES)

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    60 poor families in Kalahandi district of Odisha once deprived of access to electricity are electrified now. The wind and solar hybrid system by Practical Action has solved the basic energy need of the villagers with street lights, home lighting and fans.

    Kamalaguda and Tijmali, these two villages are on the top of the hills where it was a day dream for getting electricity to fight with the night. Now, the villagers are capacitated to manage the systems by themselves without any external support.

    7. PROJECT NIRMAL

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    At the backdrop of poor sanitation facilities in small and medium cities of Odisha, ‘Project Nirmal’ supports two fast growing urban hubs like Dhenkanal and Angul municipalities with a pilot intervention for appropriate & sustainable city wide sanitation service.

    Project Nirmal aims at benefitting both the municipalities to set up Faecal Sludge Management systems by establishing treatment plants to treat the faecal sludge

    8. Safe and Healthy Environment for Children of Waste Workers

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    “I felt very happy the moment I received the Identity Card from the Dept. of Labour and Employment, Govt. of Odisha” Says Salima Bibi a 25 year old informal waste worker from a Slum near Dumduma under Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC).

    Many informal waste workers in the state are being formalised and now accessing and availing their legitimate citizen rights.

    9. LITRE OF LIGHT 

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    Light comes from water bottles. Litre of Light is an open source technology which has been successfully experimented in 120 households in the slums of Bhubaneswar. It has now lessened the use of electric light during day time.

    Small children can even study and men and women can do delicate cloth weaving and other productive activities during day time with the light provided by these solar water bulbs.

    10. Safe and Healthy Environment for Children of Waste Workers
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    117 children of informal waste workers have been enrolled in schools in one day and are continuing their schooling; they were engaged in rag picking or related works previously.

    While working with alternative energy, Practical Action focuses on advocating and influencing the society for a step ahead towards meaningful development

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  • Safer cooking across the world

    Amanda Ross

    December 20th, 2016

    Cooking is a daily necessity – for some a chore, for others a pleasure.  I’m happy to count myself in the latter category. Luckily for me, cooking is made easier by the availability of clean, reliable energy.  But this sadly is not the case for a third of the world population. Pashupati Kumal

    In many developing countries, and especially in rural areas, the only cooking fuels available and affordable are wood, crop waste or dung. And the most common cooking appliance is a three stone fire.  Not only is this energy inefficient, it’s also dangerous. Diseases caused by smoke from cooking fires kill 4 million people each year. That’s more than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids combined.

    Sadly, there’s no single silver bullet to solve this problem. All cultures have their own cooking practices, so local choice has to play a big role in any technology designed to reduce smoke in the kitchen.  Here are some stories of Practical Action’s locally designed solutions that have succeeded in cutting deadly household air pollution.

    As you cook your Christmas dinner this year, spare a thought for the three billion people worldwide who don’t have clean energy.

    You can help by donating to our appeal to stop the killer in the kitchen.

    LPG stoves in North Darfur, Sudan

    In North Darfur, 90% of households depend on firewood and charcoal for cooking. In this region LPG fuel is available and offers a clean, efficient substitute for wood or charcoal in household cooking.

    This innovative project is financed with carbon credits, through Carbon Clear. And a community managed revolving microfinance scheme enables poor families to obtain both the stove and the fuel. No only does the reduction in household air pollution improve the health of women and children but it also reduces the pressure on dwindling forest resources in the region

    Asha LPG stovesAsha Mohamed Abdelkareem Sabeel, a mother of six, now has an LPG stove. She used to spend 20 SDG ($2) a day to buy wood for cooking. But with the new fuel she has put away her daily savings of 10 SDG per day ($1) in a box and has saved an unbelievable 2,800 SDG ($280).  The family have used this to build a new building and kitchen for their house.

    Asha used to have to visit the doctor every other month but this has stopped completely. She is now saving to support her daughter at university. In addition there is a huge time saving. Instead of spending four hours a day cooking, it can all be done in an hour.

    Just imagine what you could achieve with an extra three hours a day!

    ACCESS stoves in Odisha, India

    ACCESS OdishaThis Johnson Matthey funded project in Odisha has trained local women entrepreneurs to produce and market a locally designed low smoke stove.

    It is providing employment and stimulating the local economy as well as improving health by reducing harmful smoke.

    26 year old K Madhabi led a women’s group and is now a successful entrepreneur.  The energy efficient cook stove they produce reduced smoke to almost zero and cooking time up to 50%.  It also consumes less firewood than traditional stoves. She is delighted with their success.

    “Life is not the same as before. We have been treated with much respect in our community,” says Madhabi.

    The group has been getting regular orders and are working hard to meet the demand.

    Smoke hoods in Nepal

    In rural areas across Nepal, traditional stoves are common. But smoke from these fires fill the lungs of the whole family, causing them to cough and their eyes to stream.

    Saraswoti MoktanHere the winter cold means that stoves are needed for heating as well as cooking. Practical Action has worked with local families to develop a smoke hood design that can be manufactured locally and installed along with an improved stove. The project is enabling 36,000 households in the Gorkha, Dhading, Makwanpur, Rasuwa and Nuwakot districts of Nepal to install this technology.

    Saraswoti explains how this has changed her life.

    “Before, we had a traditional stove. And the stove was really smoky; my eyes were watery and I couldn’t see properly. It used to hurt a lot. When the children were small, they suffered from pneumonia.”

    Their new stove and smoke hood not only protect Saraswoti’s family from deadly smoke but also uses less wood, saving time and effort, and the house is no longer black with soot.

    Stoves for coffee growers in Peru

    Working in partnership with coffee co-operative CENFROCAFE, we’ve developed an improved stove for 700 coffee and rice farmers in the provinces of Jaen and San Ignacio in Peru.

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  • Zai pit technology increasing yields in Mutasa

    Martha Munyoro Katsi

    December 15th, 2016

    Enneta Kudumba is one of the many farmers in Mutasa district, Manicaland Province who have successfully employed new farming technologies and methods to enhance their harvests given the detrimental effects of climate change.

    54 year old Enneta from Nyachibva Village explains.

    “I have been growing maize on large pieces of land for years, but with limited satisfaction due to erratic rainfall patterns. However, I am happy that the zai pit technology has brought fortunes and my productivity has improved.”

    Enneta Kudumba showing her harvestZimbabwe, like most Southern African countries, has experienced the worst ever El Nino induced drought that left a number of farmers in Mutasa and other parts of the country counting their losses after a poor harvest.

    Located at the heart of the high veld region, Mutasa District has variable agroecological zones with maize farmers at the other end of the area experiencing rainfall shortages. This has affected the agro-based livelihoods both socially and economically.  The area also boasts small to large dams that are utilised by the farmers for their horticultural activities.

    The Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) introduced zai pit technology in a bid to arrest the problem of hunger in areas experiencing massive crop failure.

    “Zai pit technology, introduced by the Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme, changed my life,” said Kudumba. “I am very happy with the results. This year, for instance, I managed to harvest a tonne of maize. Prior I would till acres of land and harvest less than a tonne of maize”

    Kudumba said she dug 400 pits, with one pit accommodating six maize plants and managed to grew 2,700 plants on her one acre piece of land.

    What is a zai pit?

    ennetaZai pits are infield conservation works which are being adopted as a climate smart way of farming in view of the threat of climate change induced drought. The zai pit is prepared well in advance starting in July soon after harvesting. The zai pit measure 60 cm x 60 cm by 30 cm deep. You can plant six to eight plants in the pit. You need to apply 5 litres of well decomposed manure and a cup of compound D in August-September to give the soil adequate time to react with the manure. When the effective rains come in November and December you then plant and maintains the plots. You can use the principle of mulching in Zai pits and herbicide usage is encouraged.

    Despite the practice being labour intensive, it has proved to be an effective weapon against hunger. Zai Pit technology is one of the most popular ways of conservation farming that keeps moisture in the soil for a longer period and also helps prevent soil erosion.

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  • Less is more when building a resilient community


    December 1st, 2016

    To improve the resilience of flood vulnerable communities in Bangladesh, Practical Action has been working in the north-west of the country on a Vulnerability to Resilience (V2R) project under the Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation programme.

    This project, funded by the Zurich Insurance Group, has piloted new practices such as developing Local Resilience Agents (LRA) to sustain the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable flood prone communities by providing an early warning system voice SMS service and delivering vaccination campaigns.

    V2R has trained 181 LRA in 15 flood-prone areas of Sirajgonj and Bogra on services requested by the communities: crop management, livestock service, fisheries and paramedical services. These agents combine entrepreneurship and volunteerism to serve their community with skills that supplement other extension agents. By providing these services they are also earning, which is improving their livelihoods.

    resilience agent Mohamed KhalequeOne LRA is 38 year old Mohammad Abdul Khaleque from Thakurpara village in Sirajgonj. After starting the V2R project in Sirajganj District in 2009, he was selected as a volunteer to provide support for community resilience by minimizing the loss and damage of livestock from flooding. He received 18 days training which included 15 days technical training on livestock health services and three on disaster preparedness and response in 2010. The project provided equipment to help him perform his duties. In 2015 he was selected to a LRA and had refresher training to give more comprehensive support to the community. He has extended his livestock treatment service to eight neighbouring villages and earns 400-500 TK a day by providing treatment to cattle.

    He was also selected for training for the Bangladesh Water Development Board’s Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC) and received equipment to disseminate the Flood Early Warning System (EWS) as a Gauge Reader. He collects water level readings five times a day and sends them to the FFWC.

    “Now I am well known as “Doctor Khaleque” in the surrounding community of Takhurpara village and different people, officials and service providers come to me and contact me which makes me proud and feel that I am doing good for my community”

    He now has a well-built, tin house, some savings and sufficient food for his family. He has also purchased cows, installed a tube well for safe drinking water and set up a latrine to ensure a healthy life for himself and his family. While he was unable to finish his studies, he is making sure that his children are going to school regularly. Asked about his future plans, he replied, “continuing and expanding my livestock services to more communities.”

    For faster communications, he is thinking of buying a motor bike and for quick response he also provides emergency information via his mobile phone.

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  • Smoky Homes offers an inspiring real-life context for the primary STEM curriculum

    Bren Hellier

    November 30th, 2016

    If you were to ask a class of pupils ‘What takes more lives every year than malaria, AIDS and TB added together?’

    What do you think their answer would be? I’m guessing it’s unlikely to be household smoke. Yet every year this hidden killer takes the lives of over 4 million people, mainly children and women.

    Globally, more than three billion people burn wood, coal and other biomass as their only way to cook, boil water and heat their homes on basic stoves or three stone fires. The lethal fumes that are produced from these methods is the same as burning 400 cigarettes an hour.

    Through the Smoky Homes education materials pupils can learn about this global problem and attempt to address the question – How can we reduce the smoke produced and get it out of people’s home?

    Smoky Homes

    Find out more about us in Smoky Homes

    The Smoky Home starter activity introduces through the lives of two sisters living in Nepal whose family cook on an open fire. They have their own ideas on how they would like something better to stop them becoming poorly and their house dirty from the smoke.

    Through a set of science and technology investigation and research activities, young people can start to develop their own ideas and model solutions to address the problem. Some pupils might develop models of fuel-efficient stoves while others develop chimneys or stove hoods. Either way Smoky Homes offers a real-life problem and genuine opportunities for pupils to explore how simple solution can transform lives.

    At the end of their project, pupils have the chance to see some of the inspirational solutions that Practical Action are working on in Nepal.

    All the materials and activities for Smoky Homes are free to download.

    Enjoy!

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  • A new dawn for livestock health in Eastern Sudan

    Manal Hamid

    November 24th, 2016

    The Livestock Epidemio Surveillance Programme (LESP-ES) aims to improve the livelihoods and resilience to food insecurity of about 427,000 vulnerable rural smallholders in the three Eastern Sudan states Kassala, Gedaref and Red Sea.

    The planned interventions aim to strengthen the technical capacities of regional veterinary services through achieving three results:

    1. Technical capacities for coordinated epidemio-surveillance and control of trans-boundary animal diseases strengthened at state level
    2. Diagnostic capacity of veterinary laboratories and quarantine facilities at state and locality levels improved.
    3. Awareness and skills of rural livestock producers and other stakeholders concerning animal health, production and trade are improved.

    LESP meetingOne of the main concerns is the improvement of the diagnostic capacity of veterinary laboratories and quarantine facilities at state and local levels. Activities that will help achieve this are the improvement of  the work environment through rehabilitation of the Gedarif Veterinary Regional laboratory, provision of  furniture and  increasing the capacity of cold chain facilities for storage of samples.  The Regional Veterinary Research Laboratory plays a crucial role in livestock export through the diagnosis of trade relevant diseases such as Brucella.

    Dr HamadDr. Hatim Hamad, director of the laboratory, indicated that the support he had received from Practical Action through LESP project is unprecedented and could not be afforded by the Ministry of Finance. He indicated that the enhancement of the work environment had contributed positively to best practices and the support to the cold chain facilities enable the laboratory to accommodate the samples of more than 13 veterinary professionals pursuing their Masters degrees as well as the training of veterinarians and veterinary technicians/

    He also noted that the support  received enabled the laboratory to open a new tick identification and classification unit taking in consideration the importance of tick borne diseases. He added that the epidemio-surveillance field missions executed through  the project will enable the collection of tick samples from different state localities and during this period he had successfully  identified Hyaloma species for the first time in Gedarif State.

    LESP activityHe indicated that the provision of better diagnostic tools and equipment will improve the diagnostic capacities of the lab tremendously and help in meeting the OIE requirement which is considered one of the major ways in which the programme has added value.

    Dr Hamad expressed his appreciation for the efforts exerted by Practical Action towards the development of Eastern Sudan States and his wish to continue cooperation between Practical Action and Ministry of Livestock in the future.

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  • Agriculture – a global win-win but, sadly, a ‘no-win’ at COP22

    Chris Henderson

    November 17th, 2016

    Agriculture: everywhere, yet nowhere

    As an agriculturalist following the climate change negotiations (the ‘Conference of Parties’ or annual COPs) I used to think that agriculture was the most ‘not talked about’ topic. It was implicit everywhere, but nowhere in the text. Until, with great relief, food security was highlighted in the Paris Agreement.

    Recognizing the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change

    However, after a rather frustrating week at COP22, it now looks like agriculture is the most ‘not acted on’ topic!

    No action on agriculture

    Last week the developing countries (the G77 group) introduced a promising draft ‘COP decision’ on agriculture. The proposed text had a focus on ‘adaptation’ as this is the area where action and investment is desperately needed for food security and sustainable development for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – where goal 2 is “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. It also recognised that ‘mitigation’ (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) is a ‘co-benefit’ and therefore the importance of agriculture in reducing emissions.

    COP22However, the EU (supported by the USA) proposed an alternative text that called for direct action on mitigation and adaptation, including the use of biofuels to replace fossil fuels. Unfortunately the differences in emphasis (and a lack of trust about underlying intent), led to the withdrawal of the decision. So, yet again, the vital topic of how the COP should treat agriculture was relegated to the body convening for ‘technical discussions’ – for further discussion and to provide ‘advice’ to the COP.

    A lack of strategy from COP22

    Having a decision at COP 22 would have ensured progress and guided planning, implementation and finance at all levels. The decentralised planning process, through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), would have ensured that the resulting actions are appropriate to individual nation’s needs and priorities. If agriculture doesn’t have a COP decision to guide planning, it risks being forgotten as countries, donors and bilateral actions follow their own priorities.

    Watching from the side lines it is hard to not draw the conclusion that somehow the winners in this are those who make money from the status quo – the industries and markets linked to intensive agriculture. Or perhaps developed nations, content with their preferential place in this troubled world, fearful of the cost of adaptation. Can’t they see that addressing the issue from an ‘adaptation with mitigation co-benefits’ perspective, is better than no action! And, failure to act soon will lead to much greater cost in the long run.

    A constructive way forward

    The Paris Agreement and its rapid and widespread ratification this year is unprecedented and historic. Even the UK has now signed.COP22

    Since agriculture is central to climate change the discussions will continue. However, discussion is not enough! Through its various bodies, the COP has been discussing agriculture for years (at least 6). Now is the time to use the Paris Agreement to unlock the door on planning and financing climate actions in agriculture.

    Tackling adaptation using co-benefits approach

    Practical Action’s ongoing work in South Asia to facilitate organic matter value chains as a strategy for addressing the problem of very low soil organic matter is just one example of ‘adaptation with mitigation co-benefits’ transforming agriculture – a clear win-win! Such ecological approaches address both adaption and mitigation as they improve long-term productivity and protect or build soil fertility, thereby combating degradation and the need for farmers to develop new land.

    For me the greatest missing argument for action on agriculture now, is that, if investment and action is based on ecological principles, it can be genuinely inclusive and sustainable. It can be a win-win-win – for food security, rural livelihoods and the environment.

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  • Insurance is no silver bullet

    Colin McQuistan

    November 16th, 2016

    Parties will be leaving Marrakech with plenty of work ahead to enhance action and support in order to address loss and damage. With key decisions now reached, let’s take a moment to look at the main tool in the loss and damage toolbox: insurance.Marrakesh COP

    The ability to cope with loss and damage from climate change is going to involve financial mechanisms, including insurance. ECO hopes and expects that many more vulnerable communities will be supported in their efforts to cope with the losses and damages they are already facing. Such support must be guided by pro-poor principles including accessibility, participation of affected communities in designing the support, and the integration of insurance within a comprehensive risk management approach. Importantly, those who have contributed fewer emissions to global carbon pollution cannot and should not be expected to pay for protection against mounting climate risks. In other words, an equitable and rights-based approach to insurance must include financial support to make premiums affordable.

    flooding in SiragonjBut let us get one thing straight: it’s not possible to insure ourselves out of the climate change problem!

    So whilst ECO strongly welcomes efforts to expand climate risk insurance, we urge Parties to waste no time in developing a comprehensive approach to loss and damage that includes raising finance, addressing slow-onset events and non-economic losses, and a long-term, rights-based approach to migration, mobility and displacement, in the context of climate change.

    The framework for the Warsaw International Mechanism’s five-year work plan shows us where we need to start. ECO urges Parties to give the WIM the resources and support it needs to expedite its work, and become an effective tool for addressing loss and damage in all its dimensions. 2016 very sadly gave us many examples of loss and damage, so it’s now vital for the world to get cracking!

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