ONE of Europe’s most influential women yesterday warned of worsening global calamities which will hit poor nations the hardest.
Kristalina Georgieva, in charge of the vast humanitarian relief budget for the European Commission (EC), made the remarks following a meeting with charities in Belfast yesterday afternoon.
She stopped in at the News Letter’s office for an interview between engagements, and warned that freakish weather and growing political extremism are combining to create an “explosive cocktail” which threatens to worsen an already dire humanitarian situation in parts of the globe.
She said: “Climate change in my deep conviction is the most difficult challenge we as a civilisation face.
“Of course it leads to more natural disasters, more frequent and more intensive disasters.
“And when you have this universe of poor countries that are vulnerable to climate change, to droughts, to floods – and at the same time they are affected by conflicts – this explosive cocktail of threats from nature and conflicts is an enormous risk for societies ... The reality we face is that we, all countries rich and poor, are to struggle with this increased frequency and intensity (of extreme weather). And of course for poor nations, the burden is much harder to bear.”
As witnessed in Manhattan, Hurricane Sandy reduced one of the wealthiest parts of the world’s richest nation to something like “a third world country”, she said.
With the formal title of Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Ms Georgieva is in charge of an annual aid budget of more than a billion Euros for the EC – the EU’s executive arm.
Her warning over the threat of climate change comes on top of a visit to Ulster last week by Professor Kevin Anderson, a leading British climate scientist, who warned that unless global warming is checked the map of Belfast may have to be redrawn in decades to come as floods consume low-lying areas.
Asked whether there had been progress in reducing the humanitarian disasters worldwide over the last few decades, Ms Georgieva sounded a pessimistic note.
“Look, what I see is that there are more dramatic, difficult-to-handle places in the world than before, because of this combined nature of droughts, floods, natural disasters and conflicts,” she said.
To make matters worse, this comes amid population explosion and political fanaticism.
She added: “The disrespect for basic principles of humanity is growing because we’re dealing with people who just couldn’t care less,” citing the targeting of medical workers – including the recent murders in Nigeria of relief staff offering polio vaccinations.
“Basically we have two threats – when they combine this is explosive. One is extreme weather. And the other one is extremism, (which) breeds mostly on religious grounds.
“But it is not the religion, it is this extremism that does not conform with any norms of behaviour.”
However there is cause for hope.
The reason she was in Northern Ireland was to meet many of the charities and relief organisations based here, on the invitation of UUP MEP Jim Nicholson.
She said: “The message that came from them was that there is joy in life that we mush cherish, but also life that we must protect...
“What we did this morning is to recognise that Europeans – because of our own history of coming through wars and conflicts – have an obligation to be a force for good around the world.
“And it is morally the right thing to do, but it is also in our self-interest to work for a world that is more prosperous and stable.”