No accident: Resilience and the inequality of risk

No accident: Resilience and the inequality of risk

Oxfam report examining the uneven distribution of climate change related risk and vulnerability impacting poor and vulnerable populations.

The title of this report - No Accident - reflects the key message underlying the report: that climate related risk disproportionately impacts the most poor and vulnerable not due to inherent characteristics of climate change itself, but due to structural inequalities that are the result of policies and actions implemented by national and international elites and institutions. The report clearly shows that while wealth is increasing, inequality is too, and that climate related vulnerability is higher in countries with greater income inequality.

Inequality makes it harder for poor people to work their way out of poverty and decrease their vulnerability to climate related impacts, while globally, risk is placed on the poor as developed countries fuel climate change at the expense of vulnerable populations in developing countries. The report argues that a new approach to poverty and risk reduction is required, one that focuses more on helping poor and vulnerable populations to realise their rights so that they can themselves adapt to change, rather than simply be aided from one shock to another. Social, economic, and political institutions that lock in security for some, but vulnerability for many, must be challenged, with power and wealth (and with them, risk) redistributed to build models of shared societal risk.

The report makes five key recommendations to address this unequal distribution of resilience and risk:

  • National governments must provide leadership on building resilience and reducing inequality. Given government's’ responsibility and capacity to achieve these tasks, they must become national priorities, and the subject of enhanced focus and action from the international community
  • Resilience-building work must address inequality, power, and rights: rather than international and national elites using markets, governments, and institutions to reduce their own exposure to risk (at the expense of the poor), structural causes of gender and income inequality must be addressed through the sharing of risk, building pro-poor institutions, providing free basic health and education services, progressive financing, and tackling corruption.
  • Development work must internalise risk: identifying, analysing, and managing risk must be a fundamental aspect of development. Requirements include national governments integrating risk reduction across national development plans, departments, and ministries, and for development work to shift proportionately to more risky contexts.
  • Institutional reform is required within international donors, UN agencies, and NGOs, so that rhetoric is turned into action through reducing institutional barriers across the humanitarian and development divide. Long-term, flexible funding frameworks can help support this goal.
  • International frameworks must support risk reduction through: governments ensuring that risk and resilience is adequately reflected in the post-2015 development framework; developed countries cutting emissions to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees celsius; and donors providing sufficient funding for the proposed Global Fund for Social Protection.
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