• The secretariat of the Santiago network on loss and damage will be hosted by a joint venture between UNDRR and UNOPS
  • No physical location yet, but to be found by 2024 – and that costs little
  • The network will start its work with a minimum start-up fund of $40.7 million

Here comes the second real decision of this COP28, albeit perhaps residual compared to the broader issue of decarbonisation and global stocktake. In fact, an ‘advanced’ (i.e. practically final) draft was circulated on item 7 on the COP agenda, i.e. who and where will host the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage, an entity created in 2019 at the Madrid COP and designed to assist the work of the Warsaw Mechanism on Loss and Damage.

Indeed, it was the objective of this COP to arrive at a decision on who would host the secretariat of the network, which is not yet fully operational, but already supported by donations from Canada, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United States of America.

The secretariat received two proposals: the first from an ad hoc consortium between UNDRR (the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) and UNOPS (the UN’s procurement and project management arm), the second from the Caribbean Development Bank. Paragraph 9 of the negotiating draft says that the selection process has come to an end and that the proposal of the UNDRR-UNOPS consortium has been selected, which will host the secretariat for an initial period of five years, extendable thereafter through five-year renewals. In any case, the COP already encourages the consortium to work with the Caribbean Bank when it deems appropriate, so as not to lose along the way the availability and expertise of this important player in the global South.

But, physically speaking, where will the secretariat be hosted? It has not yet been decided. The COP in this sense mandates the winning consortium to explore possible options in more cities and countries around the world, where the necessary diplomatic immunities typical of all UN bodies can be guaranteed and, importantly, where it is deemed to be most cost-effective (paragraph 15). A final decision will have to be made in the course of 2024.

Paragraph 20 of the draft decision recalls that all decisions on technical assistance to countries on loss and damage will have to be ‘developed through an inclusive and country-led process, taking into account the needs of vulnerable populations, indigenous peoples and local communities’. The total absence of mention of human rights protection and safeguards is striking.

But who will pay for the functioning of the secretariat? Paragraph 32 of the draft recalls that on 6 December, the European Union, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the United Kingdom pledged donations totalling USD 40.7 million. More donations are likely to come in the coming months, but it seems that at least the start-up costs can be considered covered.

Paragraph 35 deals with the relationship between the Santiago Network and the new Loss and Damage Fund. The network will be able to designate one or two persons to participate in the annual high-level dialogue on coordination and complementarity on loss and damage finance. Furthermore, paragraph 36 below reiterates that the two entities are ‘invited’ to collaborate.

Already attached to the draft decision is the text of the memorandum of understanding between the COP and the UNDRR-UNOPS consortium on the allocation of the secretariat location.

Article by the ICN Delegation in Dubai

Cover photo: by Jacopo Bencini

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