Africans dismay at decision to host loss and damage advice hub in Geneva

The UN agencies that will run the Santiago Network recommended it should be based in Nairobi but governments have instead chosen the world’s third-most expensive city, Geneva. Governments have ignored a recommendation by UN experts and decided to host a network advising on the loss and damage caused by climate change in the expensive Swiss city of Geneva rather than the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

In January, the two United Nations agencies that will manage the Santiago Network on loss and damage recommended that its headquarters should be in Nairobi as it is a relatively cheap location and home to other UN environmental bodies.

But during the first meeting of the network’s advisory board this week, at the four-star Warwick Hotel in Geneva, government climate negotiators rejected that proposal and instead chose the Swiss lakeside city as its headquarters. The Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance, PACJA and other non- state actors have denounced the decision, calling for its reversal. They revealed at a Press briefing a statement condemning the decision that reflects another for of injustice to Africa that remains one of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Evidently disturbed by the development, they have described the decision as “an epitome of global injustice and the power wielding tactics of the global north to control all the decision-making processes for responding to climate change . Globally Africa is grappling with more frequent and severe floods and droughts that needs to be addressed experts say. 

At Cop28, governments agreed that Copenhagen-based Unops would be the operational host, while Geneva-based UNDRR would organise the expert advice. The two agencies were commissioned to explore the best physical location for the network’s headquarters.They shortlisted five options that were safe enough for staff to bring their families, in the European and African time zones, and had a UNDRR presence: Nairobi, Geneva, the German city of Bonn, Brussels in Belgium and the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

They evaluated the five locations based on staff, office and set-up costs, “operational efficiency” criteria like security, infrastructure and the skills of the local workforce and other factors, including being close to other UN agencies. In pursuit of justice, transparency, and accountability to the developing nations, they condemned the decision and declared the Advisory Board’s decision a nullity.

Further, they called for:

Overwhelming condemnation, in the strongest possible manner, the apparent subversion of the laid-down procedures by the Advisory Board, and call upon appointing authorities, especially those from Africa and other developing countries, to investigate the possibility of collusion, carrot-dangling and manipulation by industrialised countries.
In order to regain the lost glory, the Advisory Board should, with immediate effect, reverse their ill-intentioned decision and adopt the recommendations from UNOPS- UNDRR by unanimously picking Nairobi as the host of the SNLD.
Call on the Chair of the Committee of the Heads of State and Governments on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) and Chair of AGN to pronounce themselves, and expeditiously compel the Advisory Board to respect and adopt the recommendations of UNOPS-UNDRR.
We continue to urge the Advisory Board to foster the principles of climate justice, CBDR- C, human rights including children rights, and gender equality, in addressing Loss and Damage.
Call on the Advisory Board to further demonstrate Goodfaith by swiftly putting together structures that will ensure countries and communities facing losses and damages are reached soonest possible and have requisite local governance structures for response. This cannot be done from Geneva!
Call on the SNLD to have sustainable, predictable and sufficient resources (financial, technical, and human resources) to enhance capacity of countries in responding to losses and damages occasioned by the changing climate.