A wide-ranging coalition of policy makers, political leaders, and development partners held a two-day interactive conference in Juba, South Sudan designed to generate ideas and concrete action points to protect and help vulnerable communities to adapt against the negative effects of climate change.

“South Sudan should approach climate change as an opportunity to move towards a green growth pathway that is powered by clean energy and sustainable management of natural resources,” said guest of honour First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan His Excellency Taban Deng Gai in his keynote address. “I am happy to announce that climate change adaptation responses will be an integral part of the national development strategy which is underway and will be mainstreamed across the different sectors.”

In the context of a multifaceted crisis causing widespread and urgent humanitarian needs, the conference participants actively engaged in discussion on durable solutions to persistent food insecurity, including immediate, medium, and long term actions needed.

“We need to act now to save the lives of the people who are already feeling the impact of climate change in their daily lives,” said Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Mr. Joseph Bartel. “South Sudan doesn’t only need humanitarian aid, we need to build the resilience of our communities so that they have the capacity to produce food and provide for our people, and ultimately take this country to the next level of prosperity.”

The Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, and Acting Minister of Environment and Forestry, Hon. Onyoti Adigo Nyikwec further emphasized the government’s commitment to acting swiftly to address the needs of communities.

“Even as South Sudan has constrained fiscal space, my Ministry is committing to prioritize climate change interventions in our budgets. Needless to say, the support of the international development partners will be vital to complement national efforts and I look forward to working closely with all of you as the country moves towards robust mechanisms to boost domestic preparedness on climate change,” said Hon. Nyikwec.

The Minister also emphasized the need for inclusion and engagement of young people into the climate change adaptation agenda, particularly through introducing climate change education into school curriculums.

In addition to high-level officials from line and state ministries, experts from Kenya, Somalia, South Africa, and India contributed their expertise on a variety of cross-cutting topics.  Presenters included FAO South Sudan Country Representative Serge Tissot, World Bank Senior Agricultural Economist Dr. Elliot W. Mghenyi, Poverty-Environment Initiative Africa Regional Manager for UN Environment Mr. David Smith, Senior Fellow of the Earth Science and Climate Change Division of the Energy and Resources Institute Dr. Suruchi Bhadwal, Climate Change and Environment expert from C4 Ecosolutions Mr. Rene Schieritz and UNDP Senior Advisor Dr. Biplove Choudhary.

The wide range of topics sought to make linkages between urgent issues concerning energy, agriculture, and water in South Sudan. The objective of the conference is to bring together high-level actors to jumpstart planning, preparation and implementation of programmes to decrease the adverse impact of climate change, improve preparedness, and protect communities.

“There is no time to lose. We need to act, and act now, on climate change adaptation in South Sudan,” said UNDP Senior Deputy Country Director Mr. Jean-Luc Stalon.

“Innovative renewable energy solutions need urgent attention for adaptation. Infrastructure and access to electricity are critical not simply for the smooth running of the health and education facilities but also for diversifying livelihoods, especially those of women and youth. However, in most parts of the country, these basic needs are not being met, communities are being deprived of basic services and the productive potential of the country is not being realized,” continued Mr. Stalon.

Representatives from the diplomatic missions of the Kingdom of Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan, United States, Sweden, and Ethiopia were also on hand to engage and participate in discussions.

The conference was organized by UNDP and the Ministry of Environment. It serves as a vehicle for key policy formation related to the joint recovery and stabilization programme launched by UNDP, FAO, WFP, and UNICEF. The conference also sought to complement UNDP’s support to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management on implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030).