West Lake, Tây Hồ, Hanoi, Vietnam buildings overlookign a lake

Dispatch from the United Nations Development Programme in Viet Nam: Joanna Hausen’s first blog from the virtual field

Photo credit: Hieu Tran/Unsplash

By Joanna Hausen, MIPP

Hello from Kitchener, Ontario! A far throw from Hanoi, Vietnam, where the team I will be working with over the next months is based. Working remotely as a Junior Professional Consultant in climate policy and programme support with the United Nations Development Programme in Vietnam seems a fitting opportunity to explore the realities of working with an international organization – working remotely, across time, language, and cultural differences, and finding interesting ways to work together – apart. For my first ‘Dispatch from my Home Office’ I want to share some of my initial thoughts on the work I will be doing and the structure of the project.

I will be working on the Global Climate Fund and UNDP project for ‘Improving the Resilience of Vulnerable Coastal Communities to Climate Change Related Impacts’. The project has three main components: increasing resilience of infrastructure and the built environment; improving resilience of ecosystems and ecosystem services; and increasing the generation and use of climate information in decision-making. I will be contributing to project components regarding disaster risk management at community and provincial levels, early warning systems, and insurance.

This package of work really excites me. These initial project design choices that define project components are fascinating, as they will guide the next 3-5 years for UNDP at the strategic level and often are bound to funding approvals. Throughout the project and each sub-component there will be complimentary activities that build on the others, resulting in a multifaceted approach to supporting coastal resilience at community, provincial, national, and international levels. Such an approach will be necessary to respond to the immediate and long-term risks of the increasing intensity, frequency, and unpredictability of heavy storms and disasters related to climate change.

Having dabbled in risk management related work for herder co-operatives in Mongolia, I look forward to exploring how a disaster risk reduction toolkit is being applied for the Vietnamese context of coastal risks. In general, what I’ve learned about disaster risk reduction is that unmitigated hazards relate to the disasters which relate to crisis situations. That not all hazards are mitigatable at individual/community levels or even at all – but that a focus on mitigation and preparedness for known hazards in disaster cycles can help prevent the resulting crisis situations which many people face.

To respond to such hazards, my job will be to support tools that can inform people and governments using high-quality information, up-to-date data, and early warning systems that allow for prospective planning for disaster risk management. I will also be evaluating prospective tools that support people in the aftermath of disasters by promoting the enabling environment for risk financing and inclusive insurance.

I have already been learning about some interesting actors in the field such as the SEADRIF Initiative – the Southeast Asia Disaster Risk Insurance Facility, is a regional platform that builds resilience to the increasing risks of climate change and disasters through cooperation, advisory, and financial services. It is an ASEAN+3 Initiative in partnership with The World Bank, and an effective example of a regional cooperation for information sharing, financing and shared investments, and political momentum.

So far, I have been familiarizing myself with project documents and the impacts of Covid-19 on the project implementation and timeline. In previous positions I’ve held, it was the odd jobs that allowed for my quick familiarization with the project and team, so I have been happy to help review documents outside of my core responsibilities, and organize our team meetings. The core team has been working together for four years and they collaborate very smoothly and effectively. It is our challenge as short-term JPCs to be both non-disruptive, seamlessly weaving in our support, and disruptive, introducing new perspectives and fresh energy to keep the momentum of this flow. I happily welcome the challenge!

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