Rapid Response Assessment Series

In response to increasing urgency in the need for targeted and acute information on the environment, UNEP has initiated a special report series - Rapid Response Assessments (RRA), hosted at GRID-Arendal. In principle, a Rapid Response team is compiled based on the specific demands in each case, selected upon their expertise worldwide in the required field. The reports are delivered within anything from weeks to months depending on the issue and task involved, covering all fields from marine to terrestrial using the latest scientific, model and satellite information brought together with direct field investigations anywhere, anytime - and undergo rigorous peer review prior to release. The reports have so far gained substantial ground, policy and media impact and are characterized by clear messages on critical issues, graphics and limited text.


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Given the alarming pace, level of sophistication, and globalized nature that illegal trade in wildlife has now notoriously achieved, UNEP initiated a Rapid Response Assessment to provide some of the latest data, analysis, and broadest insights into the phenomenon. Tackling illegal wildlife trade demands this examination of the relationship between the environmental resources at stake, their legal and illegal exploitation, the loopholes that exacerbate the situation, the scale and types of crimes committed, and the dynamics of the demand driving the trade.

The African elephant, the largest remaining land mammal on the planet, is facing the greatest crisis in decades. Reports of mass elephant killings in the media vividly illustrate the situation across many African elephant range States. This Rapid Response Assessment provides an overview of the current state of the African elephant alongside recommendations for action to ensure its protection.

The illegal trade in wildlife makes up one part of the multi-billion dollar business that is environmental crime and is increasingly being perpetrated at the cost of the poor and vulnerable.

Environmental crime and the illegal grabbing of natural resources is becoming an ever more sophisticated activity requiring national authorities and law enforcement agencies to develop responses commensurate with the scale and the complexity of the challenge to keep one step ahead.

Women are often in the frontline in respect to the impacts of a changing climate. Globally the world is seeing increasingly frequent droughts and floods which are having economic but also profound social consequences. The women and people of Asia are currently at greatest risk with over 100 million people affected in this region annually.

Through the air, over land and in water, over ten thousand species numbering millions of animals travel around the world in a network of migratory pathways. The very foundation of these migratory species is their connection to places and corridors across the planet. The loss of a single point in their migration can jeopardize the entire population, while their concentrations make them highly vulnerable to overharvesting and poaching.

Africa is currently the least urbanised region in the world, but this is changing fast. Of the billion people living on the African continent, about 40 per cent lives in urban areas. The urban population in Africa doubled from 205 million in 1990 to 400 million in 2010, and by 2050, it is expected that this would have tripled to 1.23 billion. Of this urban population, 60 per cent is living in slum conditions. In a time of such urban growth, Africa is likely to experience some of the most severe impacts of climate change, particularly when it comes to water and food security. This places huge pressures on the growing urban populations.

Biodiversity and ecosystems deliver crucial services to humankind – from food security to keeping our waters clean, buffering against extreme weather, providing medicines to recreation and adding to the foundation of human culture. Together these services have been estimated to be worth over 21–72 trillion USD every year – comparable to the World Gross National Income of 58 trillion USD in 2008.

Gorillas, the largest of the great apes, are under renewed threat across the Congo Basin from Nigeria to the Albertine Rift: poaching for bushmeat, loss of habitat due to agricultural expansion, degradation of habitat from logging, mining and charcoal production are amongst these threats, in addition to natural epidemics such as ebola and the new risk of diseases passed from humans to gorillas.

“Sick water? The central role of wastewater management in sustainable development” not only identifies the threats to human and ecological health and the consequences of inaction, but also presents opportunities, where appropriate policy and management responses over the short and longer term can trigger employment, support livelihoods, boost public and ecosystem health and contribute to more intelligent water management.”

A new Rapid Response Assessment report released 14 October 2009 at the Diversitas Conference, Cape Town Conference Centre, South Africa. Compiled by experts at GRID-Arendal and UNEP in collaboration with the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the UNESCO International Oceanographic Commissions and other institutions, the report highlights the critical role of the oceans and ocean ecosystems in maintaining our climate and in assisting policy makers to mainstream an oceans agenda into national and international climate change initiatives

A rapid response assessment report released by UNEP to mark World Environment Day 2009 indicates that boosting investments in conservation, restoration and management of natural ecosystems will not only become important, but will provide our best and most effective way to slow down climate change and accelerate sustainable development and the achievement of the poverty-related Millennium Development Goals.

The Environment's Role in Averting Future Food Crises
A new rapid response assessment report released by UNEP warns that up to 25% of the world’s food production may become lost due to environmental breakdown by 2050 unless action is taken.

Merging of Climate Change With Pollution, Over-Harvest, and Infestations in the World's Fishing Grounds
A rapid response report  that maps the multiple and combined impacts of pollution; alien infestations; over-exploitation and climate change on the seas and oceans.

State of Emergency: Illegal Logging, Fire and Palm Oil in Indonesia's National Parks
The survival of orangutans and other rain forest wildlife in Indonesia is seriously endangered by illegal logging, forest fires including those associated with the rapid spread of oil palm plantations, illegal hunting and trade.

Marine pollution, climate change and the resilience of coastal ecosystems
The ability of coral reefs to survive in a globally-warming world may crucially depend on the levels of pollution to which they are exposed, new findings indicate.