UN job of­fers global view

But­lerville na­tive fre­quent trav­eller to far-off places

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

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.

Lead­ing up

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

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

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.

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