The world’s leading humanitarian and conservation organizations – the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) – are uniting to protect and build resilience among the most at-risk coastal communities on our planet.

With rising sea levels and the threat of hurricanes and other severe weather impacts, 600 million people who currently live in coastal areas less than 10 meters above sea level will experience growing exposure to storm surge and flooding at unprecedented scale. Less familiar yet highly effective actions, however, such as safeguarding coastal reef and mangrove systems, can offer life-saving protection and sustain local livelihoods.

This progressive partnership will harness decades of TNC’s science, guidance and tools to inform community-level action. TNC science, for example, reveals how a healthy reef system can attenuate wave energy (that would otherwise directly hit coastlines) by up to 97 per cent. IFRC can leverage this type of evidence, along with its network of 190 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and more than 11 million volunteers, in order to significantly scale the reach and impact of nature-based risk reduction measures that strengthen and protect disaster-prone coastal communities.

“This partnership comes with widespread networks allowing for scaled action through collaboration,” said Walter Cotte, IFRC’s Regional Director for the Americas. “Using our network of global volunteers, we will be working with TNC to assist coastal communities to protect their ecosystems and adapt to climate change.”

“Nature provides a first line of defence to protect coastal communities from severe weather”, said Mark Tercek, CEO of TNC, adding, “Natural assets, like mangroves and reefs, offer an abundance of food as well as opportunity for at-risk communities to earn a living through tourism, fishing and other industries.”

The joint work of these two organizations dates back to 2012, with the “At the Water Edge” (AWE) project developed in Grenada with the participation of the Grenada Red Cross. The aim of the AWE project is to increase the social and economic capacity of local communities to adapt to climate change by using nature to build resilience. Subsequently TNC, IFRC, and their local counterparts are using geospatial data to complement community-based flood risk management in the densely-populated Semarang, Indonesia; this effective approached is now poised for scaling.

More recently in 2017 TNC and the IFRC launched “Resilient Islands”, a four-year initiative designed to protect islands against the impacts of climate change by promoting the use of coastal habitats to reduce risks. Through a multi-stakeholder approach including governments, private sector partners and communities, Resilient Islands will result in sustainable policy and behaviour change that prioritizes nature-based solutions to risk reduction. The hope is that with a partnership, TNC and IFRC can continue to scale up this work around the globe.