For the first time, The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare have taken part in the annual Climate Week NYC. The charities co-hosted a virtual event called “Working Animals and Climate Change – in Disaster Preparation and Relief while leaving no one behind”, on Tuesday 22 September 2020.

The event focussed on the essential role working animals play in providing sustainable solutions to limit the effect of environment-related crises in mountain regions. During the two-hour event, with speakers from Portugal to Uganda, Nepal to Chile and beyond, stakeholders were invited take part in discussions about the fundamental role working equids play for mountain communities and their consideration when devising climate change adaptation and mitigation plans.

Working equids are particularly relevant in recovering from environment-related disasters, such as landslides, flooding and earthquakes in mountain areas.

The event was held during the United Nations General Assembly 2020, with support from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Mountain Partnership.

Ian Cawsey, Director of Policy, Advocacy & Campaigns at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “This is the first time we have contributed to New York Climate Week. It is a great opportunity for us to continue our work highlighting the crucial role equines play in sustainable development.

“In some parts of the world where difficult terrain is aggravated by a disaster, donkeys and mules are often key to moving in aid supplies. And when animals and livestock have been part of disaster planning, communities are able to recover and rebuild their lives more quickly.

“So our message to New York Climate Week is understand the importance of the animals that allow you to live sustainably. The UN has agreed that working animals are “protected assets” for disaster planning. Now is the time to make it a reality”.

Roly Owers, CEO, World Horse Welfare said: “What became so clear during the event was how integral working animals are to the livelihoods of so many of the more than one billion people in mountain communities. While climate change affects everyone, it will be most acutely felt by those whose lives are so closely intertwined with the land, and working horses, donkeys and mules have long been a means of sustainably adapting to and shaping that land – and will continue to be. So it is essential that they are considered when devising policy.”

According to the Global Risks Report 2019, issued by the World Economic Forum, extreme weather events, failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and natural disasters top the risk list in terms of likelihood and impact.

Mountain areas represent a reliable indicator of how human-led activities affect the environment and global climate. Glaciers are melting rapidly, leaving plants and animals in a constant struggle to survive and mountain communities facing even harder conditions and circumstances.

An estimated 200 million working animals play a critical role in supporting communities in low and middle-income countries, through their contribution in both rural and urban settings for essential resource provision and growth.

Climate Week NYC is an annual event that has taken place every year since 2009. This year it runs from 21 to 27 September 2020. As the focus shifts to how the world moves on from Covid-19, Climate Week NYC, 2020 will discuss how to rebuild the global economy for people and planet, and halve global emissions by the end of the decade.


    Notes to Editors

    Participating speakers

    • Yuka Makino, Mountain Partnership (FAO), Co-ordinator.
    • Tamara A. Tadich, University of Chile, Animal Production Department, Associate Prof. Dr. in Veterinary Science.
    • João Carlos Martins Azevedo, Mountain Research Centre, Coordinator, Professor Socio-Ecological Systems.
    • Maureen Anino, Uganda, Principal Environment Officer, Ministry of Water and Environment.
    • Gobinda Bahadur Shahi, Kirdarc Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Centre (KIRDARC), Focal Point and Mountain Partnership Steering Committee.
    • Jose Galvez, Guatemala, Officer Climate Change Unit, Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources.
    • Ian Cawsey, The Donkey Sanctuary, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns.
    • Roly Owers, World Horse Welfare, CEO.

      The Donkey Sanctuary is the world's largest equine welfare charity. Our vision is a world where donkeys and mules live free from suffering and their contribution to humanity is fully valued. We run 10 sanctuaries around the UK and Europe, giving lifelong care to more than 7,000 donkeys and mules. Our hospital treats sick donkeys and trains vets both nationwide and worldwide. Our donkey-facilitated learning programme helps vulnerable children and adults develop life skills by connecting with donkeys on an emotional and physical level. The charity operates programmes worldwide for animals working in agriculture, industry and transportation, and those used in the production of meat and skin.