UN job offers global view
Butlerville native frequent traveller to far-off places
Earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides and many other natural disasters may be things that can happen out of the blue.
But in areas that are prone to these types of events, which are often catastrophic, Carl Mercer says strategies can help alleviate the impact in developing countries.
The Butlerville native is a communications specialist with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the area of climate change and disaster risk reduction. For the past two-and-a-half years, he has travelled the globe with the UNDP, informing those in developing countries about the needs to prepare in case of a disaster. UNDP partners with over 150 countries, many of which experience considerable loss when natural disasters strike.
The 32-year-old has been a part of several projects since completing his degree in political science at Memorial University a decade ago and his masters in conflict studies and human rights at Utrecht University in Amsterdam.
His official title is Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication Coordinator, which is a mouthful but accurately represents the job he does on a global scale.
“My role is to help share the experiences and lessons learned of our country partners and to advocate for actions that safeguard development from disasters and climate change,” Mercer told The Compass last week from New York.
He recent visited a region of India prone to cyclones, and he was able to see first hand how these communities prepare for these storms and how they react during an emergency.
“One particular day a local women’s organization held an entire ‘mock drill’ to show us how they mobilize people to vacate their homes and take refuge in the cyclone shelter during a storm (and) half the community showed up,” he explained. “It was great to see how the work we do does indeed help people to be better prepared.”
Mercer had the opportunity to go to Sendai, Japan for the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction March 14-18.
Thousands of people took part in round table discussions, presentations and education sessions. It has been something Mercer has prepared for over the past year.
Travel and educate
With a year left to his degree at Memorial University, he initially thought he would attend law school. He decided to take a year off and travel to South Africa with Canada World Youth.
“This is where I started to feel like I could work in international development and/or foreign affairs,” he explained.
His life took a new path, eventually leading him to an internship in Ethiopia, as well as stints in Indonesia, Chad, France and the United States. He also did work in Angola, Liberia, Tanzania and South Sedan before taking his position at the UN.
Since being with the UN, he has advocated for countries affected by climate change and disasters, but believes the issue is not segregated to developing countries.
For more on the UNDP and what Mercer’s team is doing, visit www.undp.org.
To read an expanded version of this story, visit our website — www.cbncompass.ca.
Carl Mercer has travelled far and wide with his career path, including to India, where he joined a filmmaker to see how locals dealt with cyclone threats.