Themes – Addressing Today’s
and Tomorrow’s Humanitarian Challenges

The Forum will address current and future humanitarian challenges. In its initial phase, it will focus on the humanitarian impact of climate change on the poor and most vulnerable.

Thematic Focus: The Humanitarian
Impact of Climate Change

Climate change has been at the forefront of international debate with a focus on the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. The social and humanitarian implications of climate change, however, are only beginning to be brought to public and political attention as a systemic issue of deep concern. The adverse impact of climate change primarily affects the world’s poorest and most vulnerable; the very people who contribute the least to climate change suffer the most – a striking injustice.

Climate change – a mounting threat to the world’s poor

Climate change is likely to trigger, or at least constitute a key factor in an increasing number of humanitarian crises worldwide. The immediate and most visible consequences of climate change are more frequent and intense weather events such as storms and flooding. In addition, and probably more importantly in terms of scale, slower-onset disasters, such as climate-change-driven water stress or rising sea levels caused by melting polar ice and shrinking glaciers or higher global temperatures, are already being felt in many parts of the world, and in particular by millions of people in poor and marginalized communities.

Adverse impacts on the attainment of
the Millennium Development Goals

Climate change has a negative impact on sustainable development and on progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Water stress in the form of severe drought, dwindling groundwater sources, and changing rain patterns is dramatically aggravating food scarcity in a number of already vulnerable zones. Rising sea levels could submerge island nations and flood entire coastal areas, putting millions of people at risk.

An unprecedented global humanitarian challenge

The humanitarian impact of climate change is likely to be among the biggest humanitarian challenges in years and decades to come. Action so far has been slow and inadequate compared with needs. Given the global reach and cross-sectoral nature of the problem, tackling climate change calls for an unprecedented degree of international cooperation: between governments, international multilateral and non-governmental organizations, civil society, the private sector, and the academia. There is a need to design and mobilize coalitions across national, sectoral and cultural boundaries in search of solutions and initiatives to reduce the vulnerability of people to the effects of climate change. The schedule of negotiations on a future climate change regime by 2009 represents a window of opportunity to catalyze action imperatively required to meet the urgent needs of vulnerable communities exposed to climate risks.

The Forum aspires to contribute to these efforts.

Further Information and Resources

The Human Face
of Climate Change

Read the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change