Climate change

Disaster risk reduction

The relevance of disaster risk reduction to climate change has led to growing efforts to link the two sectors.

Damage from the Asian Tsunami of 26 December 2004, Asian Development Bank CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Edited by Alan Stanley
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Disaster risk reduction (DRR) - reducing and preventing the effects of a disaster -  is founded on the belief that whilst disasters are inevitable, death and suffering from them is not and humans can take action to ensure this. DRR actions can be political, technical, social and economic and take forms as varied as policy guidance, legislation, preparedness plans, agricultural projects or insurance schemes. With climate change expected to increase the frequency and magnitude of many types of weather related disasters, the relevance of DRR to the broader discussion in the development sector about adaptation to climate change is increasingly apparent and has led to growing efforts to link them, both in policy and practice. 

Like climate change adaptation, DRR is far more effective when tackled within larger development projects and policies and development organisations have been making efforts to mainstream DRR for some years. This recognises the links between vulnerability to disasters and social status. In other words those with better access to resources, stable housing, financial fallback and higher social rank are less at risk than the poor, women, children and the elderly. It also reflects the belief that being able to tackle risks posed by current climate variability is the best frontline defence against longer-term climate change impacts. 

Continue reading: The Samaritan's dilemma

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Paula Silva Villanueva 

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The Samaritan's dilemma

It is worth remembering though that this movement towards integration is a relatively new thing. Traditionally DRR has been neglected in many programmes because it falls between the ‘relief’ and ‘development’ sectors. Many DRR programmes are funded from humanitarian budgets and coordinated from humanitarian aid departments but this separates them from the wider development sector and development practitioners have often seen DRR as belonging to the relief sector.  Perhaps as a result of this DRR interventions haven’t always been designed to most effectively learn from and secure the participation og those most at risk.

DRR also faces challenges with implementation. Many developing countries struggle to afford the required economic investment needed to reduce risks and there is an argument, often called the Samaritan’s dilemma, that the assurance of outside humanitarian relief once a disaster takes place, can deter them from investing in DRR practices. A potential solution to this would be to make post-disaster aid conditional on the implementation of DRR but effective tools to analyse the capacities of community-based organisations to participate effectively in the design and implementation of risk reduction strategies are in short supply. 

Continue reading: Hyogo a-go-go


Challenges to disaster risk reduction: a study of stakeholders’ perspectives in Imizamo Yethu, South Africa
African Centre for Disaster Studies, 2011
South Africa is a dynamic, developing country in a challenging transition as it struggles to protect life and health, property, infrastructure and the environment from disasters. It is generally accepted that prevention is better than cure when it comes to disasters, and so South Africa’s National Disaster Management Act and Framework focuses on proactive disaster risk reduction.
Disaster risk reduction NGO inter-agency group learning review
International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), 2011
Between 2005 and 2010, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) funded ActionAid, Christian Aid, Practical Action, Plan and Tearfund to carry out disaster risk reduction (DRR) projects. They worked together as a consortium on global advocacy and in learning and sharing lessons, as well as collaborating in some cases at a country level. The outcome of these projects is this ‘learning review’ document which aims to contribute to the evidence base on disaster resilience and support future learning and facilitation.
Global assessment report on disaster risk reduction: revealing risk, redefining development
PreventionWeb, 2011
The risk of being killed by a natural disaster is lower today than it was 20 years ago, except for those countries with low GDP and weak governance. In these countries, disasters significantly impact on social welfare (particularly child welfare) and cause mass internal displacement. This report provides a current resource for understanding and analysing global disaster risk. Drawing on a large volume of new and enhanced data, it explores trends and patterns in disaster risk globally, regionally and nationally.
Views from the frontline: local reports of progress on implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action, with strategic recommendations for more effective implementation
, 2011
In 2009 a Voices from the Front Line (VFL) study gathered views on progress in implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) on risk reduction activity at the local level across 48 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
Tools for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction: guidance notes for development organisations
ProVention Consortium, 2007
How to mainstream disaster risk reduction into the work of development organisations? This ProVention paper aims to support the efforts of development organisations in mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into their work.
A better climate for disaster risk management
International Research Institute for Climate and Society, 2011
This paper highlights recent advances in the use of climate information to improve livelihoods and save lives. By analysing experiences like that of the Red Cross in West Africa, it takes stock of the needs and capabilities of the humanitarian community and assesses the types of climate-related information products that may help inform disaster risk reduction and development decision-making processes. It notes that climate information services offer a range of benefits.

Hyogo a-go-go

It was the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 that first put disaster risk reduction high on the international political agenda. Prompted by the devastation and widespread calls to install early warning systems, 168 Governments met at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Japan in January 2005. Here the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) was agreed which set out a ten-year holistic strategy for DRR. Building on Hyogo at a regional level associations and networks have emerged with the aim of improving communication and coordination between countries and to advocate for DRR and disaster management. These include the South Asian SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA).

Hyogo recognised the need to increase awareness and understanding of DRR and the importance of assessing risks and taking preventative action against them. The Framework called for the creation or enhancement of early warning systems, and action to reduce risk factors such as deforestation, unstable housing and the location of communities in risk prone areas.

Continue reading: Engaging communities


Building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters: Hyogo framework for action 2005-2015
United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, 2005
This paper presents the draft declaration from the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction, held from 18-22 January 2005 in Kobe City, Japan.
Proceedings of workshop towards operationalising of regional consensus on disaster risk reduction in South Asia
Duryog Nivaran: South Asia Network for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2007
This paper reports on a meeting to review the status of the implementation of the Delhi Declaration and to chalk out a programme of action that helps to operationlise the South Asian Association Regional Consensus (SAARC) on Disaster Management. Its aim was to understand and agree on current status of mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) into development at national level, and to identify gaps and ways and means to address gaps.
Implementation of the international strategy for disaster reduction
UN, 2005
In preparation for an international decade on disaster reduction, this document provides an overview of the implementation of the Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the follow-up to the World Conference on Disaster Reduction and the Hyogo Framework for Action and gives an account of the follow-up actions taken under the Strategy by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Disaster Reduction.
Towards national resilience: Good practices of national platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction 2008
United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, 2008
Aimed at national disaster management authorities and national disaster risk reduction stakeholders, this paper intends to further national commitments and action in establishing and working through national platforms to reduce disaster risk. The paper stresses that governments increasingly recognise the need for comprehensive multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral national coordinating mechanisms to reduce, prevent and manage the impact of natural hazards.
Words into action: a guide for implementing the Hyogo Framework
International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), 2011
The need for a global disaster reduction strategy has been underscored by a string of disasters, including tsunamis, earthquakes and droughts. As such, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) was formulated as a comprehensive, action-oriented response to international concern about the growing impacts of disasters on individuals, communities and national development. This Guide has been created to provide advice on useful strategies for implementing the HFA. It represents a distillation of the wealth of experience that exists throughout the world on how to manage and reduce disaster risks.
Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters
International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), 2005
This paper presents a detailed overview of ‘The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015', which was adopted at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, held in Hyogo, Japan in 2005. It notes that the Hyogo Framework provides a strategic and comprehensive global approach to reducing vulnerabilities to natural hazards, and represents a significant reorientation of attention towards the root causes of disaster risks as an essential part of sustainable development, rather than on disaster response alone.

Engaging communities

Perhaps most significantly though the Hyogo Framework highlighted the role of education in increasing the capacity of people to deal with and reduce the risk of disasters. This recognised both the central role that schools play in communities but also the role that children can have in creating solutions and  ensuring that DRR becomes a sustainable and long-term focus for those communities.

Local communities are perhaps the most important actor of all in DRR. They are the ones directly affected, who retain local knowledge vital to managing risk and are often responsible for carrying out early warning tasks. When a disaster hits, early warning can save thousands of lives - particularly from hazards such as earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis - but alerting everyone in the vicinity is difficult. The community must be prepared to respond appropriately and also be consulted on the best way to do this. Participation is the central focus of the community-based DRR approach and priority is given to vulnerable groups. This includes tackling vulnerability caused by unequal development.

Recent research has also emphasised the links between rapid urbanisation and disasters. These links have sometimes been described as reflexive in that cities create their own risks by causing degradation of the local, regional, and global environments. High concentrations of resources and people within cities also means that the economic, social, and environmental costs of extreme events are high and poorly planned urban environments, weak urban governance, a lack of infrastructure and basic services all increased risk. Rapid urban migration and the fragmented or disjointed urban communities that can result from also potentially contribute.

Continue reading: Building back better


Enabling child-centred agency in disaster risk reduction
PreventionWeb, 2010
Child-centred approaches to disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) recognise the role and rights of children as citizens and agents of change. It is important to understand how children can be engaged in articulating their needs, identifying solutions and taking action to reduce disaster risk. This paper provides empirical data and builds on the globally available evidence base in order to move forward the debate on engaging children as active citizens in DRR.
Education and disaster risk reduction
Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 2008
Preparedness is crucial to reducing the impact of events and hazards that have the potential of resulting in disaster. Education and training are likely to improve the multi-disciplinary health response to major events that threaten the health status of communities.
Making disaster disk reduction gender-sensitive
, 2009
This paper is a policy guideline on gender mainstreaming which presents practical advice on how to institutionalise gender-sensitive risk assessments, implement gender-sensitive early warning systems, and use gender-sensitive indicators to monitor gender mainstreaming progress. It presents a summary of global-level events that highlight mainstreaming gender in disaster risk reduction, and notes that advocacy and awareness-raising have contributed to the increased understanding of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and gender as cross-cutting matters.
Older people’s associations in community disaster risk reduction: a resource book
HelpAge International, 2007
Building community capacity through Older People’s Associations (OPAs) enhances the resilience of a community in the event of a disaster. Lessons learnt suggest that there are many ways in which older men and women can contribute in planning and coordinating community responses to disasters. [adapted from author] This resource book aims to strengthen the capacity of organisations working with older people in planning and implementing age-sensitive responses to disasters. It is aimed at managers of development and humanitarian organisations working in the Asia /Pacific region.
Community level adaptation to climate change: the potential role of participatory community risk assessment
Red Cross/ Red Crescent Centre on Climate Change and Disaster Preparedness, 2008
Community Risk Assessment (CRA) refers to participatory methods to assess hazards, vulnerabilities and capacities in support of community-based disaster risk reduction, used by many NGOs, community-based organisations, and the Red Cross/Red Crescent. This paper reviews the evolution of climate change adaptation and community-based disaster risk reduction, and highlights the challenges of integrating global climate change into a bottom-up and place-based approach.
From grassroots to global: people centered disaster risk reduction
ProVention Consortium, 2008
In April 2008 a group of 170 partners met in Panama city to attend the forum ‘From Grassroots to Global: People-Centered Disaster Risk Reduction’. This document records the energy, ideas and views resulting from discussions and presentations in the formal sessions and also in the corridors of the event. The document outlines seven key challenges that need working on over the next few years and discusses how participants recommended approaching them.
Why is community action needed for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation?
International Institute for Environment and Development, 2011
This paper is an editorial of various others which bring out the importance of community action for disaster risk reduction, post-disaster rebuilding and climate change adaptation. It highlights the role that disaster-affected communities play in rebuilding their homes and livelihoods, and notes that community led initiatives in post-disaster rebuilding are often cheaper and more effective than external led interventions.
Desk review on trends in the promotion of community-based disaster risk reduction through legislation
International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2010
This paper presents a review of literature and recently adopted laws that are linked to the Hyogo Framework goals. It examines how disaster management legislations may promote tangible results at the community level and why it sometimes fails to do so.The report notes that more specific attention to community-level risk reduction is slowly making its way into disaster management laws in various parts of the world.
Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction: a road towards sustainable urban development and creating safer urban communities
US Agency for International Development, 2010
This paper examines the risks of natural hazards and disasters that challenge the development efforts of the urban or city development process. It also highlights how local government, as the key partner of the development process, could contribute effectively to reducing disaster risks in their respective operational areas. In the course of the report, the author explains that rapidly expanding urbanisation is a major contributor to disaster risk in developing countries, especially flooding which is exacerbates through poor drainage systems.

Building back better

The way in which response and recovery efforts are managed can either increase or decrease the risk of future disaster events. Reviews of recent rehabilitation efforts have concluded that they often built back, and in some case even increase, pre-existing risks. Greater awareness of the longer term impacts of climate change has led to the recognition that the objectives of DRR need to go beyond restoring communities affected by disasters to their pre-disaster condition, and to focus instead on the opportunities that disasters provide to create long-term resilience.

This is just one example of where DRR and climate change adaptation sectors are influencing each other. Other examples include the continuing debate on the need for DRR to give greater emphasis to slow onset disasters (rather than extreme one-off events); to re-think how calculations of risk are undertaken; and how DRR interventions incorporate climate modelling and uncertainty.

But we also need to recognise that there are important differences. DRR deals with all hazards, including geophysical hazards (i.e volcanos) where adaptation deals exclusively with climate related hazards. Both CCA and DRR aim to reduce the impact of hydro-meteorological hazards, but on very different timeframes. And, most significantly, adaptation aims to help communities undertake long-term adjustment to changing average climate conditions whereas DRR focuses on dealing with short-term occurrences. So whilst most development and humanitarian organisations are still seeking effective integration, conceptually as well as operationally, this is still very much work in progress.

Part of the issue here is the need to understand what constitutes effective investment in disaster risk reduction and adaptation strategies. Monitoring and evaluation of DRR programme management to date has been weak partly due to the methodological challenges that it presents. Measuring the impact of DRR programmes is difficult because of what has been called its “reverse logic” where the success of a DRR intervention is that the “disaster” does not happen. However, interest in M&E for DRR is rapidly increasing and generating demand for tools to appraise disaster risk reduction projects, identify the most cost effective investments, and measure their impact. In an increasingly challenging funding environment this will surely be a critical area for the future.

Continue reading: Back to introduction


Opportunities for integrating climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in development planning and decision-­making: examples from Sub-­Saharan Africa
International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), 2011
This paper analyses nine climate change adaptation mainstreaming projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, analysing whether collaboration of Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is taking place. It also examines the rationale for the coordination and mainstreaming of CCA and DRR, based on trends in climate variability and extreme events, disasters and their economic implications, and on overlaps between CCA and DRR.
Reducing Risk through Environment in Recovery Operations
United Nations [UN] Environment Programme, 2009
Increasing attention is being paid to the importance attached to environmental issues in recovery operations and the new challenges climate change will pose to communities already vulnerable to natural hazards. The purpose of this paper is to provide an introductory review of the current status of recovery operations in terms of integrating environment and long-term disaster risk reduction (DRR).
Disaster Risk Reduction. A review of DRR work by DEC Member Agencies in response to the 2004 Tsunami
Reliefweb, 2010
This review report from the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) examines whether its vision of a more long-lasting impact had been achieved in terms of strengthening the 2004 Tsunami-affected population’s resilience to future environmental shocks and disasters in Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia. Its purpose is to inform future disaster responses by identifying lessons learnt. It focuses on the concepts of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and building/strengthening community resilience.
Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation: closing the gap
id21 Development Research Reporting Service, 2008
There is significant overlap between the practice and theory of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation. However, there is limited coherence and convergence in institutions, organisations and policy frameworks. Both struggle to be incorporated into regular development planning and this aspiration is slowed down by duplicated activities, ineffective use of resources and confusing policies.This paper makes suggestions to policy makers and communities of practice on how to enhance both DRR and climate change adaption by 'converging' the programmes.
Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2012
This Summary for Policymakers presents key findings from the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). It assesses scientific literature on issues that range from the relationship between climate change, extreme weather and climate events to the implications of these events for society and sustainable development. It examines how exposure and vulnerability to weather and climate events determine impacts and the likelihood of disasters.
Climate change and local level Disaster Risk Reduction planning: need, opportunities and challenges
Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network: Indore Initiative, 2009
This paper examines strategic disaster risk reduction and what needs to be done to get reliable estimates of future climate change impacts. It looks at problems in the existing disaster risk management planning and highlights the need for a change in existing disaster risk reduction practices.