Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction

This post focuses on DRR and DRM, the Sindai conference and how this can change how countries rebuild after a disaster.

This week’s class focused around the DRR and DRM and the importance of inclusive emergency preparedness. The UN had a large role in raising awareness for the importance of an inclusive emergency framework with the Sendai Conference, the subsequent Global Platform, and the Dhaka conference. As climate change causes more frequent, more damaging and deadly natural disasters, the global community is more empowered than ever to create inclusive sustainable development plans for disaster relief.

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Disaster Risk Management (DRM) have been tailored to be inclusive through numerous stakeholders. There is a concept in the disaster stakeholder group that natural disasters are in fact not natural (even if the associated hazard is) and only “by reducing and managing conditions of hazard, exposure and vulnerability that we can prevent losses and alleviate the impacts of disasters”[1]. DRR and DRM focus on managing risks, not just disasters, it focuses on the policy objective of anticipating and reducing risk. Both the Dhaka and the Sendai conference focused their efforts on DRR, DRM and peoples with disabilities. Due to the disproportionate amount of casualties that people with disabilities experience during disasters and emergency situations, the UN and other stakeholders have focused on creating specific measures that allow for people of all abilities, age, gender, race and poverty level to have equal amounts of protection as abled people.


The Sendai Conference was held with this in mind. The conference is heralded as the benchmark for an inclusive conference, with every effort made to make it as inclusive as possible. The Sendai Conference was the 3rd global UN Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan and was held in March 2015 and funded through the Nippon Foundation. What emerged from the conference was a non-binding agreement that arched over 15 years that highlights the need for individual states to work with other stakeholders to work to improve preparedness for disasters. Additionally, the Sendai conference was impactful as it altered the focus of disaster management to disaster risk reduction and highlighted the importance of rebuilding cities in an inclusive and sustainable way that would be less susceptible to natural disasters. The conference integrated both advocates for persons with disabilities as well as the elderly.  The conference outlines seven targets and four priorities for action and implementation guidelines to aid stakeholders to reduce disaster risks [2]. These measures need to be enacted in every country because natural disasters are becoming more prevalent and powerful and often, when disaster strikes, cities rebuild with little change. This leads to a reemergence of problems. In developing countries, one disaster can wipe out decades of development work and millions of dollars’ worth of investment, however, it presents an opportunity to rebuild smarter and more inclusive.

Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)

It has become apparent that the world’s exposure to disasters has increased faster than its ability to reduce risk and vulnerabilities to people and infrastructures. Climate change is strengthening storms and increasing the damage caused by natural disasters. Specific reports from 2004-2014 showed the disaster mortality rate of persons with disabilities was 2-4 times higher than other members of communities. Continue reading

Disaster Risk Reduction and Management

As climate change continues to unfold, more and more disasters are occurring. Between 1980 and 2010, the number of natural disasters tripled globally. In order to slow down these natural disasters, we must slow down climate change. However, in the meantime, it is important to focus on both disaster risk reduction, to reduce the risks that people face during natural disasters, and disaster risk management, to deal with what happens when these disasters do occur.

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, or UNISDR, holds many conferences regarding actions to be taken regarding disaster risk reduction. The World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction takes place every 10 years in order to develop plans and practices to strengthen nations’ capacities to resist and adapt to natural disasters. The most recent of these conferences was the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which took place in Sendai, Japan, in 2015. Out of this conference came the Sendai Framework, which includes seven global targets and four priorities for action, including investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience and enhancing disaster preparedness to improve recovery efforts. The Sendai Framework emphasizes the importance of state actors, while also prioritizing collaboration with other stakeholders.

The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction takes place more frequently than the World Conferences, to continue the important work. The GP meets every two years, and the most recent Platform took place in Cancun in 2017.

However, the United Nations is not the only international body working to reduce disaster risk. When natural disasters occur, they affect everyone differently. Persons with disabilities can be particularly vulnerable to disasters if there is not an inclusive evacuation plan. Non-state actors such as the DIDRRN and the International Disability Alliance are working towards more inclusive language and more inclusive policy. At the Dhaka Conference on Disability and Disaster Risk Management, disaster risk was assessed through the lens of disability inclusion. The Dhaka Conference resulted in the Dhaka Declaration, which includes tangible, specific indicators for inclusion. In the 2017 Global Platform, the Dhaka Declaration was incorporated into the Sendai Framework for even more inclusive disaster risk management on a global level.

Persons with disabilities need to be included not just in disaster risk reduction and management, but also in these conferences. The Niplon Foundation of Japan helped both the Sendai Conference and the GP 2017 to be as inclusive as possible, along with the support of the IDPP. The Global Platform even featured robots controlled by people in hubs who were not able to attend the conference. Participation by persons with disability is integral to ensure that disaster risk policy is inclusive and benefits everyone.

Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction and the Sendai Framework

Two of the most pressing questions of today are, how do you plan for natural disasters and how do you build back better after one occurs? The vast majority of disasters are linked to high-impact weather events caused by climate change.  The core areas of disaster risk reduction (DRR) work includes climate change adaptation, building disaster resilient cities, schools, and hospitals, and strengthening investment for DRR internationally.  Continue reading

Disaster Risk Reduction and Inclusive Practices

The Sendai Framework is one of the most inclusive UN conferences. Adopted at the 3rd global UN Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, the Sendai Framework outlines four priorities, seven targets, and thirteen guiding principles to adopt a people-centered approach and to recognize disability inclusive in Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). The Sendai Framework ultimately shifted the focus from disaster management to disaster risk reduction with the primary focus on reducing the risk of both natural and man-made disasters while planning to rebuild cities in a sustainable, inclusive and resilient way. Following the Sendai Framework, the Dhaka Declaration on Disability and Disaster Risk Reduction took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2015. Two important points discussed here are the recognition that persons with disabilities are most vulnerable during disasters and how poverty and disability can intersect. Its primary focuses were on ensuring a people-centered approach, engaging meaningfully with persons with disabilities at all levels, strengthening governance and partnerships, integrating gender, age and disability data, and promoting empowerment and protection. What stands out about the Dhaka Declaration is that it reemphasizes the issues raised from the conference, but also provides specific actions that can be taken by the countries involved. This provides clear goals for the future to guide governments and organizations towards inclusive disaster risk reduction that includes persons with disabilities in the decision-making processes.

The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction of 2017, which took place in Cancun, Mexico, redefined accessibility in the modern age (UNISDR). To ensure that all persons with disability had access and were included in the decision-making processes of the conference, the GP2017 provided International Sign Language translators for support during sessions, offered remote participations at hubs in Bangladesh, Fiji, Belgium, and the United States, and introduced the use of robots to connect these remote hubs to the conference. Although live webcasting does not always give access to discuss topics and ideas further with other attendees, the robots gave more access to those not able to participate in person to virtually engage with the conference.

I am blown away by the use of technology in this way, because of its role in promoting accessibility and inclusivity. Yet, I recognize its limitations because all may not have access to this technology and technology might not always be reliable. With my capstone project on inclusive education in Malaysia, I am intrigued by the idea of using this technology in teacher training programs to promote an exchange of ideas and learning.

Maitland Report

The Maitland Report references the effort to establish telecommunications in all areas. The ability to use telecommunication has become a vital part of today’s economy and necessary to be a part of the global context. The report is quoted as:

“virtually the whole mankind should be brought within easy reach of a telephone and, in due course, the other services telecommunications can provide. That should be the overriding objective. Achieving this will require a range of actions by industrialized and developing countries alike.”

This is because telecommunications have been neglected as an important part of integrating people in underdeveloped areas to the rest of the world. The combination of raising productivity, increasing efficiency, and enhancing the quality of life in these areas can be attained by an increase in access to telecommunications. Whether it is consistent access to a landline, cell phone tower installation for use with personal cell phones, or internet cafes for email use, these communications have proven vital in today’s world. Without these technologies, communities remain isolated despite other efforts to integrate them into the larger economy.

Another important note is that these telecommunications benefit everyday life in the developing areas in which they are implemented. For instance, health services will increase with the ability to call for emergency medical care or allow access to more advanced sciences. Another example is the increase in education available with the increase in telecommunication options. With access to stable internet, students are able to access the world of information usually regarded as a basic education tool in the developed world. Further, adults have access to information that could benefit any entrepreneurial venture they take.

The contributions they make towards the agricultural and infrastructure sectors of the global economy also benefits already developed areas. By allowing the fairer distribution of goods from these areas, it expands the global market and increases competition. This may sound like a threat to developed areas and their economies but it would allow for better products and increase opportunities for specialization.

Disaster Risk Reduction and Inclusive Development

The UN classifies Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) as the desire “to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts and cyclones, through an ethic of prevention.” The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) also takes the stance that there are no such things as natural disasters but only natural hazards. The UNISDR believes that there should be an importance placed on restoring and maintaining the environment. This is one aspect of the reduction element of DRR. If State parties were making better choices in how land and resources are managed, then it would be possible to reduce the disasters, or to at least minimize the damage that could happen. However, this does not mean that State parties are supposed to look for ways to stop natural disasters, much of the environmental impact that causes natural disasters to be more destructive than they once were have already happened. What State parties can do, on the other hand, is implement more advanced warning systems and improve the overall preparedness for dealing with natural disasters.

Disaster Risk Management follows a similar idea. Poor people are more frequently affected by natural disasters, and it is up to State parties to make sure that poor persons are able to survive during and after the natural disaster. DRM can include planning into urban areas, especially as more and more people are expected to move into urban areas by 2050. As natural disasters such as droughts push more people into cities, not only where there be a food shortage related disaster, there will also be a housing disaster. The international approach to disasters is a “culture of prevention.” The UN, along with governments at the national, state, and local level, civil society, and general collaboration between state actors, are all major players in DRR.

The UNISDR outlines a plan of vision, goals, objectives, and implementation when it comes to preventing disasters. There is an emphasis on research and including risk reduction into development plans that are already under way. The Sendai Framework—which was adopted in 2015—looks to reduce the loss of lives, livelihoods and health in disasters. The Sendai Framework also has nation states take over the role of leader when it comes to reducing disaster risk. Given that each nation state experiences different environmental factors, I believe that is important for states to take the leading role when it comes to disasters. By having individual states lead the way, more individualized plans—or regional plans for countries that experience similar climates—could be created for the greater benefit of the people living in those countries.