Civil society, European Commission discuss wetlands for community resilience ahead of EU-AU Commission-to-Commission meeting

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On 28 November, Wetlands International Europe contributed to round 3 (‘Building resilience for people through sustainable food systems, tackling climate and environmental crises, and humanitarian action’) of the Africa-EU CSO/Youth side event at the Commission-to-Commission meeting.

European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica chaired the meeting, with Commissioners Helena Dalli, Ylva Johansson, Mairead McGuinness and officials such as Acting Director for INTPA Chiara Adamo, Head of Unit INTPA A1 Domenico Rosa, Head of Unit INTPA G2 Marlene Holzner also in attendance.

Here is Wetlands Europe’s contribution:

When talking about building resilience, community resilience, we should reflect on the fact that the poorest and most vulnerable people are hit hardest by natural disasters as they tend to live in the most at-risk areas. Many hazards are becoming more frequent and less predictable due to climate change and environmental degradation. The result is that more people are caught in a vicious circle of poverty, risk and vulnerability.

In this context water resources are of strategic importance in particular for sustainable development, poverty reduction, food and nutrition security, human development, climate action, environmental protection, biodiversity and ecosystem preservation, humanitarian action, and peace and stability as also stressed by the Council in 2019 water conclusions.

Wetlands in particular  are for most African countries the lever of their development. In fact, they are the primary sources of livelihood production through the services provided by the ecosystems linked to them (agriculture, livestock, fishing, wood production, ecotourism, etc.).

The impacts of climate change and the stress on freshwater resources is in large part due to the loss and degradation of wetlands. In turn, the changing climate means the world’s water is under unprecedented pressure, impacting human and food security.

But water – and wetlands – are not just victims of the climate and nature crises, they are central to solving them. We need to restore and reconnect wetlands across all landscapes, upscaling ecosystem based disaster risks approaches to increase resilience and reduce the impact of floods, wildfires and droughts.

Restoring and reconnecting wetlands across natural landscapes and halting drainage is the basis for solving the challenges of water, food, climate, land degradation and sustainable economies. Water scarcity and environmental degradation lead to conflicts, that is why it is critical to recognise  the importance of the humanitarian, development and peace triple Nexus approach in responding to the multiple and overlapping crisis.

Building and strengthening resilience requires a multi-stakeholder and multi-dimensional approach in responding to the needs and priorities of vulnerable communities.

The European Union and African Union should bring together expertise, networks and interest groups to jointly work towards lasting solution. This requires ambition and long-term investment.

Background information

The eleventh Commission-to-Commission (C2C) meeting between the European Commission and African Union Commission took place in Brussels on 28 November 2022, following the recent EU-AU Summit (17/02/22).

As part of their recommendations from the Africa-Europe Week, civil society organisations and youth representatives have called for the development of more permanent stakeholder engagement and dialogue as part of the EU-AU partnership. Contributing to this, the European Commission organised, in the morning of the Commission-to-Commission meeting, a side event aimed at providing space for discussion between the European Commission and stakeholders. African, European and diaspora CSOs and youth representatives provided their input into the priority topics of the Africa-EU partnership.