FACO workshop highlights global vulnerability to climate-change related crises and the media’s role in raising awareness

Published October 20th, 2009 - 09:43 GMT
A two-day media workshop on environmental humanitarian reporting, held on October 18-19 in Abu Dhabi, highlighted the humanitarian impact of environmental emergencies caused by climate change and stressed the critical role the media plays in raising awareness of these issues and supporting relief efforts worldwide.
The workshop, “Reporting on the Humanitarian Implications of Climate Change”, organized by the UAE Foreign Aid Coordination Office (FACO) in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), was attended by local media and media specialists from UAE-based donor organizations. Attendees participated in a series of sessions that helped define global warming and climate change and highlighted their humanitarian impact with regards to displacement and migration and associated problems such as shortages of resources and resultant conflicts.
The workshop aimed at strengthening coordination between donor and media organizations in emergencies, in order to maximize the impact of relief efforts among needy communities.  Workshop speakers included Obinna Anyadike, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) Editor in Chief; Tanzeed Alam, Climate Change Manager, Emirates Wildlife Society-Worldwide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF); Nadia Evans, External Relations Officer, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); Jaspreet Kindra, IRIN’s Focal Point, Climate Change; David Gough, Head of IRIN’s Film Unit; and Firas Kayal, External Relations Officer, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  The workshop was moderated by Khaled Khalifa, Head of IRIN Regional Office in Dubai.
Hazza Mohammed Falah Al Qahtani, FACO Director General, who opened the workshop, emphasized the relevance of the workshop to local media and UAE-based donor organizations due to the increased frequency with which the UAE aid community has been called to respond to emergency situations arising from natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, droughts, floods, fires and famines in recent years. “Covering humanitarian and environmental emergencies is an important field with special challenges and requirements, and this workshop has been organized in close cooperation with UNDP and IRIN to provide media specialists the tools needed to report environmental and humanitarian crises in a way that will help support relief efforts,” said Al Qahtani.
“The workshop was a very productive exercise. It gave us a good opportunity to exchange experience and knowledge with UAE-based journalists on a hot topic like climate change,” said Anyadike, IRIN. During his presentation “Global Warming and Climate Change”, Alam, representing EWS-WWF, explained how human action has directly contributed to this phenomena and highlighted its negative impact on water, ecosystems, food, health and the economy from a uniquely Middle Eastern perspective.  “The responsibility of finding a solution to problems resulting from global warming rests with all of society. The role of the media is, however, a particularly important one, in that the media has the means to raise widespread awareness, encourage debate, use evidence to engage government and businesses to cooperate and publicise and demonstrate solutions,” said Alam.
Evans, on behalf of OCHA, focused on the climate-related risks with particular relevance to the MENA region as one of the most water scarce regions in the world. “Between 2000 and 2009, 422 natural disasters killed over 120,000 people and affected around 70 million in the MENA region. Water scarcity and recurring drought affected over 50 million people in this region alone,” she said.  Evans stressed that in the Middle East’s already volatile areas, climate related emergencies resulting from recurring drought, desertification, food insecurity and flooding (countries like Egypt and Yemen are particularly vulnerable) could exacerbate existing regional tensions due to forced migration and competition for already scarce resources. The interactive session that followed highlighted the fact that solutions lie in the collective effort of local governments, communities, international bodies, relief organizations and the media in raising awareness, assessing existing vulnerabilities, and anticipating and preparing for emergency situations.
A federal office, FACO was set up earlier this year under the directives of HH Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and under the guidance of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, to support and coordinate UAE-based donor organizations that provide assistance for humanitarian activities and emergency relief worldwide.

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