Disability Inclusion in Disaster Risk Reduction

Between the ever-worsening impacts of climate change and rapid urbanization around the world, the risks posed by natural disasters increase every day.  Now more than ever before, disaster risk reduction is vitally important for protecting infrastructure, the economy, and most importantly, human lives. Since the 1990s, the United Nations has promoted disaster risk reduction as a crucial part of sustainable development. In 2015, the United Nations held the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Sendai, Japan. At this conference, participants approved the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction as the successor to the Hyogo Framework. Because of the UN’s emphasis on the intersection of sustainable development and disaster risk reduction, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also include specific references to disaster risk reduction. It is very important that the UN continues to push this relationship between disaster risk reduction and sustainable development, especially as it relates to urbanization and the environment.

In recent years, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) has become a role model to other international organizations for their heavy focus on accessibility to their conferences and inclusion of persons with disabilities in their documents. The WCDRR in Sendai is considered by many the first international meeting to create a highly accessible environment, which allowed many persons with disabilities to participate in the conference. The Sendai Conference did an excellent job of leading by example on disability inclusion. It is very significant that the disaster risk reduction field has made such strides in inclusion and realized that they cannot achieve their goals without considering and including persons with disabilities, a population that makes up around 15% of the world’s population. 

Luckily, the UNDRR did not stop there. In 2017, they held the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Cancun, Mexico, as a way to continue the work and check the progress of the Sendai Framework. This meeting also emphasized accessibility in many ways including having International Sign Language interpreters, accessible documentation, accessible transportation, and allowing remote participation through web-conferencing, remote hubs, and telepresence robots. The UNDRR should continue setting the example for disability-inclusion in international meetings, and other groups should begin instituting similar accessibility requirements for their respective meetings. In order for the UN to fully achieve any of its goals, it cannot forget to include and consult 15% of the world population.