Panel Questions

What information gaps do we face in our climate and fragility response, policy, and programming in Africa?  

We face a big information gap on the African continent, and we also face a big adaptation investment gap. Too often, the vulnerable communities being most impacted by climate change are those left behind when it comes to data, forecasts, information services, and programs.

That’s why President Biden announced last week that the U.S. is stepping up our commitment to building out better early warning systems for the continent.

As we know, these forecasts and services will be of a tremendous assistance to communities trying to plan for the months ahead. But we know they will also be of help to the rest of the world, too. The better weather and climate data collection is here in Africa, the better our climate models are across the world.

What role does each agency play in working with agricultural and farming communities, to establish new or updated adaptation plans? 

At the Department of State, our Embassies and Posts work quite closely with local and national governments to collaborate on adaptation planning — and this is another area where we intend to step up our assistance even further.

Let me give you one example. I have the privilege of leading the water security team at the Department of State. And a critical program they lead is linking our water security experts, at places like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the Department of the Interior or U.S. Universities, with communities around the world. These experts are able to pass on critical learning and knowledge, but to learn innovations from communities on the ground, in reverse.

This type of expert sharing globally is critical if we are going to adapt as quick as we need to, world wide.

What has the USG done to coordinate interagency efforts to implement the climate initiatives you have highlighted in the African GFA countries and regions? What plans are there for the future? 

Assistant Secretary Witkowsky has led an incredible effort, both within and outside of the Department of State, to make sure the plans and programs within the GFA are really being led by the communities most impacted.

But let me tell you about one priority of mine: making sure climate and environmental topics are well integrated across these plans. Too often, these ecosystem and resource stressors are left out of fragility programming — even though we know that they will be at the root of so many of our insecurities going forward.

So my team is committed to working hand in glove with our fragility teams and the interagency to make sure that issues like water security, changing precipitation events, IUU fishing and wildlife trafficking, and others, are central to these strategies. (Once the team is finished coordinating a successful COP27, that is!)

Closing Remarks

Thanks so much Stephanie, and to our partners from across the U.S. Government for joining this critical discussion today.

One thing that has been on view today is that we must truly have a “3D” approach to these issues: where the Development, Diplomatic, and Defense communities are all invited to the same table to brainstorm and have integrated strategies.

That’s the balanced approach we are taking as the U.S. Government, and one we hope to see with our partners worldwide.

But even more important, you’ve heard our commitment to make sure that any work on the intersections of climate impact and growing fragility is ultimately led and informed by the communities themselves: those who are bearing the brunt of the impacts. They must be the ultimate decision-makers about their futures, with partners like those you see here today backing those choices up.

Given my personal background breaking down the silos between the defense and environmental communities, I encourage us all to do more of this in the future.

When I joined the Army, these topics that I care so much about were far from the main mission of the force.

But now, our Department of Defense realizes that ensuring the health of the planet is ultimately critical to our national and international security. That means tackling their own emissions, and helping to ensure the stability and security of fragile communities worldwide.

I’m proud to be able to partner with all of these leaders on this stage; and to take this work forward in the months and years ahead. Because as everyone here in the audience knows, we have no time to waste. Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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