11 Nov 2019

Evening Event: Global Agendas - on the path towards more coherence


7th November 2019, Berlin – “Talks surrounding International Cooperation” is an event format housed at the GIZ Representation in the heart of Berlin, taking place four times a year. This November, the topic was put forward by GIDRM with the title: “Global Agendas – on the path towards more coherence”. Central questions for discussion, which filled the evening, were: How can a coherent implementation of the global agendas be fostered? What does coherence mean in practice and what role do civil society organizations play? Which factors impede joint action by the international community? The invited panelists were:

  • Paola Albrito, head of department intergovernmental processes, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR),
  • Dr. Thomas Helfen, head of division peace, security and disaster risk management, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ),
  • Lucy Pearson, program director, Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR),
  • and as guest contributor Dr. Simone Sandholz, deputy department head at the Institute for Environment and Human Security at United Nations University (UNU-EHS).

Panel discussion: Key messages

Coherence is an integral part of successful and sustainable disaster risk reduction, it is even “in the DNA of disaster risk management to work together”, explained Paola Albrito (UNDRR). However, the global agendas constitute organizational silos, which have to be broken down; easier said than done. Hence, governmental authorities and other actors should be “strongly engaged in breaking down silos”. If tunnel vision is applied, by focusing on the goal attainment of only one agenda, the targets of all other agendas could be jeopardized, warned Albrito. While short-term goals might be reached without coherence or even with incoherence, the “debate needs to include a long-term vision” regarding the benefits of coherence.

(on the left) Paola Albrito, UNDRR (on the right) Dr. Thomas Helfen, BMZ ©GIZ/Trutschel

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) was represented by Dr. Thomas Helfen, who shared his experience of advocating for the topic of coherence already at the 2017 Global Platform (GP) in Cancun. While back then it was not recognized in the closing documents, the BMZ continued to promote coherence, which successfully added the topic to the agenda and into the Co-Chair’s Summary of this year’s GP2019. From his experience, Dr. Helfen derived the following formula: You need to (1) know what you want, (2) reliable partners, and (3) perseverance to achieve more coherence.

Lucy Pearson (GNDR) emphasized the vital role of the local community in strengthening coherence as they often automatically approach problems holistically, meaning not separated into the different sectors (such as climate change or poverty alleviation). At the same time, she criticized global funding schemes as being too earmarked, thereby impeding the coherent and holistic implementation of the agendas adjusted to local needs, structures and resources. According to Pearson, “we need to be investing in collaboration capacities” and “transferring knowledge between urban and rural areas”. GNDR collected good practices on strengthening coherence around the world and summarized them in a Cookbook (available for download in our resources). As there is no blueprint for coherence, the cookbook can be used to choose from different recipes and mix available ingredients to find a fitting solution for a specific context.

(on the left) Lucy Pearson, GNDR and (on the right) Dr. Simone Sandholz, UNU ©GIZ/Trutschel

Referring to this cookbook, Dr. Simone Sandholz (UNU-EHS) added that silos are like junk food, they make you happy quickly, but not full for long. Coherence is the more nutritious recipe, argued Sandholz. However, agenda coherence does not manifest itself automatically, instead a defined set of measures, political willingness and knowledge about the agendas on all administrative levels and geographic regions is needed.


Considering 2030, when the targets of the global agendas are due, the panel members had differing assumptions for the future: Dr. Helfen can envision a coherent “umbrella strategy”, similar to Germany’s current efforts in drafting an inter-ministerial resilience strategy. Paola Albrito highlighted the need for specific expertise, which could be lost if all agendas were merged into one: “It is fundamentally important not to lose this basic understanding [of climate change, DRR, sustainability and resilience], otherwise you will simplify things without finding the solution.” Lucy Pearson raised questions of responsibility and accountability with the warning “if there is too much mainstreaming, it becomes everybody’s issue, but nobody’s problem.”

Still hungry for more information on the subject? You can watch the recorded panel discussion here (German and English, mixed).