It was only three years ago that a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit Japan. I still remember vividly the horror of watching in disbelief as live television footage captured the tsunami rapidly moving inland. I was living abroad at the time, and tried frantically to get through to my family in Tokyo, not knowing the extent of the damage there.
Disaster Risk Reduction
“The forest is an integral part of my life and only source of income. We exploited it until we saw people killed in landslides in the neighboring areas. Gradually we became aware of the consequences of unplanned felling of trees. Now we protect our forest alongside the Forest Department. I own two hectares of forest land and they pay for its maintenance. I have earned a good amount after the first felling,” says a proud Sabbir, participant from a social forestry initiative of the Government of Bangladesh, Ukhiarghat, Cox’s Bazar.
The Government of Bangladesh initiated the Social Forestry programs with a view to meet the forest product requirements of the local population, reverse the process of ecological and climatic degradation through proper soil and water conservation, and also to improve the socioeconomic condition of the rural people.
Forests are the primary buffer against cyclones, storms and surges for over 16 million people living in the vulnerable coastal zone of Bangladesh. Over the last three decades, forests in Bangladesh have declined by 2.1% annually, accumulating to almost half of all forest cover, due to deforestation, illegal logging and harvesting, slash-and-burn agriculture, conversion into non-forestland for settlement, farming, recreation and industries. With the likely increased incidence and intensity of extreme cyclonic events, efforts must focus on reversing the decline in forests in order to adequately safeguard people against threats induced by climate change.
Losses due to disasters to human and physical capital are on the rise across the world. Over the past 30 years, total losses have tripled, amounting to $3.5 trillion. While the majority of these losses were experienced in OECD countries, the trend is increasingly moving towards losses in rapidly growing states.
In a sense, increasing risk and losses caused by disaster are the byproduct of a positive trend - strong development gains and economic growth. This is because disaster loss is a function of the amount of human and physical assets exposed to seismic or hydrometeorological hazards, and the level of vulnerability of the assets. The richer a country gets, the more assets it builds or acquires, and therefore the more losses it potentially faces.
Rapid development across South Asia signals the need to commit greater efforts to increase resilience to disaster and climate risk. It also requires governments to develop a strategy to both protect against events today and to develop strategies to address the losses of the future. This is a challenge somewhat unique to South Asia. The losses of today, predominantly rural flooding that impacts wide swaths of vulnerable populations, will begin to diminish in relative importance to the losses of the future.
Photo: Bishwa Pandey/World Bank
Like other countries in the Eastern Caribbean region, Belize is highly vulnerable to natural hazards such as coastal and inland flooding, high winds, fire, and drought, all of which are being exacerbated by climate change. And like its neighbors, Belize is doing something about it. Following the lead of other Caribbean countries involved in the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), Belize is initiating a comprehensive climate resilience investment plan that spans across sectors to mainstream climate change in its national development planning and action.
Drive on any of Belize’s four main highways and you will quickly understand how tough it is to maintain this main network connecting Belmopan and Belize City, the two key economic zones. Frequent floods impede commuting and the transportation of goods and can cut off the population for several days. It’s only going to get worse, as recent studies indicate that Belize will undergo a warming and drying trend and is expected to endure even more frequent and intense rainfalls. Seventy percent of its people live in low-lying areas prone to recurrent flooding, so reducing vulnerability to natural disasters is at the core of Belize’s development challenge.
It is a lot for one nation to face alone. That is why the government of Belize is reaching out to the international community for support and guidance on setting a path toward long-term solutions to protect its population and maintain economic prosperity. When the government of Belize approached the World Bank to support them on improving climate resilience, I was excited to see how we could apply lessons learned from other Eastern Caribbean countries involved in the PPCR to help Belize develop its own investment plan in support of a national climate-resilient development path.
Participants at the first Community Practitioners Academy meeting, which was held ahead of the Fourth Global Platform for Disaster Reduction in Generva. - Photos: Margaret Arnold/World Bank
Communities are organized and want to be recognized as partners with expertise and experience in building resilience rather than as clients and beneficiaries of projects. This was the common theme that emerged from the key messages delivered by grassroots leaders at the Fourth Global Platform for Disaster Reduction taking place in Geneva this week, organized by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR). The Global Platform is a biennial forum for information exchange and partnership building across sectors to reduce disaster risk.
Ahead of the Global Platform, 45 community practitioners from 17 countries - Bangladesh, Chile, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, Uganda, Venezuela, and the United States - met for a day and a half to share their practices and experiences in responding to disasters and building long-term resilience to climate change, and to strategize their engagement in around the Global Platform. I had the privilege to participate in this first Community Practitioners Academy, which was convened by GROOTS International, Huairou Commission, UNISDR, the World Bank, Global Facility for Disaster Risk and Reduction (GFDRR), Act Alliance, Action Aid, Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC), Cordaid, and Oxfam, and was planned in partnership with the community practitioners from their respective networks.
- Community Driven Development
- Disaster Risk Reduction
- climate resilience
- Climate Change
- Climate Change
- South Asia
- Latin America & Caribbean
- East Asia and Pacific
- Venezuela, Republica Bolivariana de
- United States
Another day, another, errm Day. Ahead of tomorrow’s International Day for Disaster Reduction (hold the front page….), Debbie Hillier, Oxfam’s Humanitarian PolicyAdviser (right), explores the links between DRR and inequality
I have never understood why disaster risk reduction (DRR) gets so little attention – from governments, donors and the aid system in general. Be honest, how many of you know what the Hyogo Framework for Action is, or know what UNISDR stands for? This is despite the proven effectiveness and – the holy grail - value for money of disaster risk reduction. Frankly speaking, it’s a no-brainer.
We all seem to understand the imperative for prevention when it comes to vaccinations and insurance, but somehow this falls apart when it comes to reducing the impacts of disasters. For national governments, I suppose that time delays between public investment in risk reduction and benefits when hazards are infrequent, and the political invisibility of successful risk reduction can be pressures for a NIMTOF (Not in My Term of Office) attitude that leads to inaction. And donors prefer the Superman of high profile disaster response to the Clark Kent of disaster risk reduction.
Social protection, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation – how do they relate to one another? Are they still largely separate communities of practice or ‘tribes’ within development or humanitarian contexts? Are there signs that they are beginning to work together to help us deal with the increasingly risky and uncertain world in which we live – one in which life comes at you fast?
The devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan have reminded us just how precarious people’s lives and well-being can be, even in the world’s richest countries. But in the world’s poorest countries and communities, the threat of drought, floods and other climate risks looms large in everyday life, and is a major reason why many people are held back from transforming their livelihoods and permanently escaping poverty.
|Rehabilitating degraded lands by water harvesting in Lemo Woreda, Ethiopia. Picture by Cecilia Costella|
Last week in Addis Ababa, 120 people from 24 countries gathered in UNECA’s historic Africa Hall – an architecturally significant symbol of African independence and optimism – to learn from each other how best to make social protection work for pro-poor disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Ethiopia was the ideal venue for this international workshop. One in three people in Ethiopia lives in poverty, largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture for a living, and is highly susceptible to droughts, floods and other climate vagaries.
As the President of Ethiopia, H.E. Girma W/ Giorgis, remarked in his welcome address, Ethiopia is also proud to be breaking new ground in social protection for climate risk management through the flagship Productive Safety Nets Project (PSNP). In his video message to the workshop, the World Bank’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, Andrew Steer, applauded Ethiopia for its part in being a “pioneer in the revolution that is under way in social protection programs for the poor”. Ethiopia also displays global leadership in the ongoing climate change negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. As Andrew Steer observed, just as the Government of South Africa is determined that the Durban Conference of the Parties (COP) in December this year be seen as “Africa’s COP – just like the World Cup”, the agenda discussed in this workshop was very much “Africa’s agenda, and the agenda of all vulnerable countries everywhere”.
Unlike the more developed nations where catastrophes typically happen when a major disaster strikes, in the developing countries, even small disasters result in disproportionate loss of life and property. Apart from the increased frequency of these events resulting from climate change, there is also an escalated risk associated with an urbanizing world: urban areas in developing country cities are commonly characterized by high population densities, old and deteriorated infrastructure, poor environmental conditions, concentrated poverty in informal settlements and slums, unplanned and often unregulated growth, and inadequately prepared local institutions, which makes them especially vulnerable. (Photo by Lecercle)
A commonly cited problem attributed to much disaster-related damage in developing countries is the use of inappropriate building codes, poor zoning by-laws, and more generally, the lack of enforceability of the same. This is particularly the case for earthquakes, because unlike other types of natural disasters, casualties and fatalities from earthquakes are associated almost entirely with collapse or failure of manmade structures. The saying “earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do” is as true today as it was when it was first coined.
Hence, the importance of these regulations—and more importantly, their enforceability—cannot be over-stated. But what of those households for whom these regulations do not apply?