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DRR - Inclusion key to resilience

Three people (one using crutches) in a courtyard meeting
Preparedness for disaster - Inclusive mock drill in Bangladesh

From 14-18 March 2015 the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will be held in Japan. This is the culmination of the process to develop the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).
CBM, with partners, has been advocating to ensure the framework is disability-inclusive, and will be participating in several sessions during the conference.

CBM supports disability-inclusive Post-2015 DRR framework

The 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) will be held in Sendai, Japan, from 14-18 March 2015. This will be the culmination of the process to create a Post-2015 framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), which aims to reduce the impact of natural disasters.

Since 2012 CBM, with partners, has been advocating to ensure that the post-2015 framework is disability-inclusive. Persons with disabilities are among the most disproportionately affected people during emergencies and should be actively involved in all emergency management cycle work. Inclusive communities are more resilient communities.

Great progress has been made - Disability stakeholders have been very much involved in the UN process leading to the current draft framework, and the text includes references to disability-inclusion, accessibility and universal design in several key areas. The organisers of the conference have committed to make the event accessible to persons with disabilities.

Questions and Answers on CBM, Disaster Risk Reduction and Sendai

Gordon Rattray (3rd from right) during panel discussion on DRR in Bangkok, 2014
Gordon Rattray is Communications Coordinator at CBM’s Emergency Response Unit in Brussels.
In March he will participate on the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Sendai/Japan from 14-18 March. We asked him some questions concerning the conference and CBM’s involvement.

Gordon, when did CBM start its’ actions in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) management?
  • CBM has been working strategically towards the Sendai conference – advocating to ensure the outcome is disability-inclusive – since 2012. We have been doing this independently and with partners as part of the Disability-inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Network (DiDRRN) and the ‘disability caucus’.
    In 2009 we already implementing specific DRR projects and it’s also worth remembering that all emergency response work, if done inclusively, can contribute positively to DRR. With this in mind we can see that previous disaster response work will have helped improve resilience at the local level.

Which CBM countries/regions are particularly affected by disasters?
  • Natural events, which may lead to disaster can, in principle, strike anywhere at any time. But having said that, there are regions which, because of geographical location, socio-economic factors and climate change, are more regularly and more seriously affected. These include Southeast Asia (the Philippines is annually struck by tropical storms) and Africa (people in parts of the Sahel are often affected by food insecurity).

Are there special focuses in CBM’s DRR work?
  • It is well-recognised that persons with disabilities are among the most disproportionately affected by disasters. CBM works to ensure that all our preparedness and response efforts are inclusive. But it is less well-understood that very often the best way to ensure an inclusive response is to have persons with disabilities actively involved in the work. Many of our partners are Disabled Person’s Organisations (DPOs), so will know first-hand what is needed in their local context and will have the networks and contacts to make our inclusive response more efficient.

Why is disability-inclusion in DRR essential?
  • As well as the points just mentioned, it is worth remembering that (according to the WHO) 15% of the world’s population live with disability. This is a huge proportion of any community, so quite simply no DRR efforts will be comprehensive without being disability-inclusive.

Could you give concrete examples that show the specific needs of persons with disabilities in emergency situations?
  • People with disabilities may have specific requirements: they may have lost mobility or other assistive devices (wheelchair, crutches, hearing aids) during the disaster and may need access to specific medicines. People who have lost their homes may have been relocated to temporarily shelter, which might not be accessible (think bathroom facilities, for example). There are many other potential barriers - communication for people who are deaf, navigating in a new environment for blind people, etc.
    As well as these ‘specific needs’, it is essential to ensure that all the ‘mainstream’ support being provided by the major humanitarian organisations is made accessible to persons with disabilities – for example relief distributions, health services....

Is there already successful impact in CBM Partner programmes in DRR?
  • Yes. Only this week I was involved in a video compilation from Bangladesh, where the main subject (a wheelchair user) tells us his raised house provided safe shelter from flooding for six families last year.

Did you experience yourself improvements during your travels in disaster affected areas, e.g. the Philippines?
  • Yes. A highlight of my visit to post-Haiyan reconstruction last year was seeing the enthusiasm and positive effect of one of our partners there (a DPO), which was developing community 'focal points’ to link persons with disabilities to the services they need.

Are government/public authorities already aware of the importance of inclusive DRR?
  • This varies from situation to situation, but setting up good-practice examples like the focal points I just mentioned is one great way of persuading authorities. In fact, the Philippines focal points have been continued after our emergency response, and are now being run with positive involvement from the Local Government Units (LGUs). Creating a disability-inclusive post-2015 framework (which we hope will be the outcome of the Sendai conference) will provide countries with the guide and info they need to work inclusively in DRR.

Who are CBM’s partners in DRR development?
  • CBM is working with peer organisations as part of the ‘disability caucus’ and the DiDRR network, advocating together – with one voice – to make sure that national and international policies and strategies (the post-2015 framework is the best example) are disability-inclusive.
    CBM also works with more than 600 partners worldwide in our development projects. In principle, any of these organisations could be affected by disaster, so could become involved in an emergency response with us that would subsequently increase DRR capacities.
    In fact, in the most recent developments of our Global Programme Strategy, DRR is now a ‘cross-cutting theme’, so will be considered at the setting-up stage of all projects.

Could you give an example of concrete disability-inclusive DRR actions in CBM programmes?
  • Regions of Bangladesh are regularly affected by flooding. CBM has been supporting a partner of ours (CDD) as they advise a Bangladesh-based mainstream organisation on making their DRR work inclusive. This is the project I quote above where I speak of raised housing. They also ensured people with disabilities are actively involved in disaster management committee meetings and flood drills, etc.

How does CBM include persons with disabilities in its DRR work?
  • As mentioned earlier, we do not only ensure that the end results of our efforts are inclusive, but we often work directly with Disabled Person’s Organisations (DPO) in programme work and support participation of persons with disabilities in national and international advocacy, so actively involving persons with disabilities in our work at all levels.

Why does the WCDRR take place only once in ten years given the fact that the number of catastrophes increase?
  • This conference in Japan has the specific objective to endorse the new framework, following on from the 2005 Hyogo framework, so it appears to be only every 10 years. However, every second year there is a global platform in Geneva to exchange on DRR practice and provide updates on implementation of the framework, and there are regional platforms in between. Therefore the topic is being continually addressed.

In Japan, governments will approve plans for global DRR after 2015. What are CBM’s concrete requirements for these plans?
  • CBM, with our advocacy partners, has been working hard over the last three years to bring attention to the fact that disability inclusion was missing from the 2005-2015 framework. We are happy to see that the current draft recognizes that persons with disabilities are disproportionately affected and must be actively involved in all levels of DRR work. Specifically we also fully endorse references to accessibility and Universal Design (whether this is in communications, reconstructions, etc), and the need for data that is disaggregated (meaning ‘gathered and organised’) by disability as well as by gender, age, etc.
What is CBM’s part in the conference? What do we want to achieve?
  • We are part of the ‘disability caucus’, which has been recognized along with the other ‘major groups’ (see http://www.wcdrr.org/majorgroups/other). This has given us more strength in negotiations up to now and will do at the conference itself.
    During the conference, as well as reporting, we will participate in a working session and many side-events on disability, sometimes facilitating and speaking. For example we (Valerie Scherrer and/or Gordon Rattray) will be part of a panel during a UN DESA Public Forum entitled ‘Taking Action towards a Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DIDRR)Framework (HFA2) and its Implementation’, and will moderate a side-event organized by DiDRRN.
    Very importantly, looking ahead, we will be working to ensure that governments commit to the implementation of the framework and pushing for development of inclusive monitoring tools and indicators.

Is the WCDRR itself accessible and inclusive for persons with disabilities?
  • The organizers are committed to making the conference accessible, and we very much hope it will be. I expect there will be shortcomings here but we must recognize that UNISDR have made great efforts on this front and it should be seen as an example to follow for other global conferences in the future. Only with full inclusion can the goals be achieved.

Participating in the Sendai conference

At the Sendai conference, there will several sessions on all levels either dedicated to disability-inclusion or where disability-inclusion will be a very relevant component on the agenda. CBM and partners will be attending, speaking, participating and reporting. To follow events live, check the website, blog and social media as follows:

Related articles

Humanitarian Action

CBM working with local partners to ensure that people with disabilities are included at all levels of disaster preparedness and response


Post-2015 Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)

How to advocate for active inclusion of people with disabilities


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Inclusion is essential

“CBM strongly supports the inclusive process so far, and looks forward to welcoming an outcome document that will reflect this.”
Valerie Scherrer
Director, CBM Emergency Response Unit


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