Any comprehensive understanding of disaster risk reduction (DRR) must address the lived experiences and perspectives of the populations who bear disproportionate challenges in disaster contexts. Indeed, the existing challenges faced by Indigenous peoples, people of colour, people with disabilities, women and non-binary populations are more likely to be exacerbated as the effects of climate change become more pronounced.
The United Nations commissioned the Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030 as a set of concrete actions to guide member states and mitigate risk. The Sendai Framework recognizes that, while states have the primary responsibility to reduce disaster risk, other stakeholders and communities share in the goal of reducing losses to lives, livelihoods, health and assets of persons, businesses and countries.
The Sendai Framework guiding principles indicate, in part that:
[DRR] requires an all-of-society engagement and partnership. It also requires empowerment and inclusive, accessible and non discriminatory participation, paying special attention to people disproportionately affected by disasters, especially the poorest. A gender, age, disability and cultural perspective should be integrated in all policies and practices, and women and youth leadership should be promoted. In this context, special attention should be paid to the improvement of organized voluntary work of citizens. United Nations, 2015
Using this, and the remaining principles as a guide, we can evaluate the existing scholarship and determine best practises to inform future policy. In an important article by Alice Fothergill published in 1996, she formulated a paradigm that creates a more comprehensive and holistic consideration of how societal inequities contribute to the disproportionate effect of disasters. While Fothergill’s article contains a gender focus, the inequities can be broadly applied to at-risk populations identified above.
At-risk populations, particularly those experiencing poverty are more exposed to risk. In lower-income communities in particular, structural inequalities, disproportionately higher responsibility for caregiving, a lack of mobility and limited access to resources are factors in both the effects and perception of risk.
In the response stage, women and men are likely to conform to socialized gender norms, and women are less likely to hold leadership roles in formalized response organizations. The role of women in formal recovery organizations will be examined in depth in a future article, but is beyond the scope of this post.
In considering the implementation of the Sendai Framework, including the development of national resilience action plans, a ‘Words into Action’ set of guidelines were developed. Based on these guidelines, a series of ‘enabling factors’ were developed that will assist in the development of a resilience action plan in an inclusive and participatory process:
- Leadership of local governments, including prioritizing the capacity of decision makers to understand and develop a holistic approach to DRR.
- Involvement of other local stakeholders, ensuring accountability from decision makers and acting as facilitators during negotiation and consensus-building processes. These stakeholders may include representatives from universities and local NGOs, as well as the private sector and the media.
- Ensuring participatory mechanisms are in place to facilitate the involvement of local actors, particularly Indigenous peoples, people of colour, people with disabilities, women and non-binary populations.
The scholarship is clear that inclusive and participatory processes in the development of DRR frameworks “can minimize risk, set the right priorities and shape recovery in ways that strengthen local livelihoods and well-being.” (UNDRR, 2017)