Initial estimates show that 2013 will probably be the hottest year in recent decades. In the temperate zone 2013 has been marked by numerous unseasonal phenomena and major flooding and it has also been a year of extreme weather events, such as the terrifyingly powerful tornados which hit the United States of America and the drought that devastated parts of China. These events have a very powerful impact on the most vulnerable people in the poorest countries, whether in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa or Mozambique, and the links between climate disorder and increased conflict are well established.
These worrying changes raise questions for humanitarian actors, both in terms of their mandate and their methods of action. Having long campaigned to help the weakest people faced with man-made and natural violence to express themselves, we must now take into account the environmental origin of this violence. But are the vulnerabilities that we combat in crisis contexts not partly caused by our way of living and consuming…? And if they are, what are we doing about it?
A certain number of initiatives of varying and complementary nature and ambition are beginning to emerge. Much remains to be done and the humanitarian sector no doubt has a lot to learn from other sectors. But it is quite possible that it has a lot to give due to the fact that it works in such close proximity with those most affected by these global changes. We felt that it was important to take stock of these changes and asked a number of humanitarian actors working on these issues to contribute to this special issue.
Executive Director, Groupe URD