Making Cities Resilient & Inclusive

With the impending climate crisis, the planet has already seen an increase in destructive natural disasters. From wildfires in California to severe flooding in Bangladesh, this is just the beginning of what could arise from climate change. While the main concern should be to tackle climate change at its core i.e., greenhouse gas emission, there is no harm in establishing disaster risk plans for when they are necessary.

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has been running a “Making Cities Resilient” campaign since 2010. The campaign targets local governments and city mayors as they are the ones primarily responsible for developing city resilience programs. The goals of the campaign are to “raise awareness of citizens and governments at all levels of the benefits of reducing urban risks, identify budget allocations within local government funding plans to invest in disaster risk reduction activities, and include disaster risk reduction on participatory urban development planning processes and protect critical infrastructure.”

The campaign is also closely aligned to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The United Nations and member nations adopted the Sendai Framework in 2015 as a 15-year plan for disaster risk management. The Framework stresses the responsibility for risk reduction should be borne by multiple stakeholders not just local governments. The Sendai Framework outlines 4 priorities for actions: – understand disaster risk – strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk – investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience – enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. However, when considering disaster risk reduction, it is crucial plans are in place to assist all in an emergency, this includes persons with disabilities.

The World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery have developed 5 actions for the inclusion of persons with disabilities. The first action is to include persons with disabilities as stakeholders in disaster risk management; this action was seen in the development of the Sendai Framework in 2015. The second action is to remove barriers that prevent the full participation of persons with disabilities; these barriers can come in many forms, physical or non-physical such as legislation or social stigma. The third is increasing awareness of governments and partners of the needs of persons with disabilities because persons with disabilities have not been heard in the past and governments are not aware of how they can assist in times of crisis. The fourth is to collect data that includes persons with disabilities. Plans for disaster risk reduction are often based upon statistical data and there are significant gaps in what perspectives are included in such information. The last is to ensure reconstruction efforts include improved accessibility for persons with disabilities. This action is in alliance with the Sendai Frameworks goal to build back better. Overall, the intersection of these international platforms for disaster risk reduction can easily involve the inclusion of persons with disabilities. Natural disasters do not discriminate against whom they affect, so neither should policy and plan that in place mitigate them.