Importance of inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction

CBM was present in the Philippines a few days after Typhoon Haiyan struck on 8 November 2013.

Valerie Scherrer, director of CBM Emergency Response Unit, explains the outcomes of the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Sendai, Japan, March 2015.

Building a safer world for all

Over 6,500 delegates and 25 Heads of State attended the conference and over 40,000 people attended the public forum. There was also a large number of UN agencies and civil society representatives, and over 200 persons with disabilities were also in attendance.

Valerie says - “The adoption of this framework, and the level of understanding of disability-inclusion that has been created in the process, are going to help build a safer world for us all.” 

Can you give us some background as to why the conference in Japan was so important to disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction?

It was important on two levels.

  • The first one is that Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) itself needs to be embedded into development and the post 2015 framework and we can’t have that without disability inclusion.
  • The second side: there has been lots of movement and positive support in promoting the need for disability inclusive DRR. The movement for disability inclusive DRR has a lot of allies. For example, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and Margareta Wahlström (Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction) are very keen to ensure disability-inclusive DRR. This is very important to us as if you look at the different countries CBM works in; persons with disabilities are at high risk of disaster, and so if they are included into DRR and preparedness then they can participate in the response.

Can you give a brief overview of the advocacy that led to this outcome, and our different allies?

First of all there was the creation of a disability stakeholder groupwhere we had a number of organisations come together. The stakeholder group comprised of the DRR network of which we as CBM are part, the International Disability Alliance (IDA), Rehabilitation International (RI) and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. There was also strong support from a number of governments including the Japanese government and also from private foundations such as the Nippon Foundation. The Japanese government was very keen to ensure that the voices of persons with disabilities were heard throughout the process. By the time we arrived to Sendai the network representing the disability movement had grown, representing Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) from a number of different regions.

What were the key outcomes from the conference?

The major outcome of conference was that the outcome document strongly identifies people with disabilities and DPOs as stakeholders in a number of actions.

The second one is we are moving towards the World Humanitarian Summit happening in 2016 and we have met the people in Sendai who are organising it. They want the world summit to be accessible for people with disabilities and they are talking also about ensuring that the outcomes of the conference are inclusive of persons with disabilities.

Another important outcome from the conference was the realisation that sustainable development will not happen unless DRR is included in post 2015 framework.

What has been the influence on mainstream DRR?

Since we have come back from Sendai, we have had many requests. Many mainstream humanitarian actors in Sendai realised two things: firstly that they have forgotten disability up until now and that this needs to change; secondly, that the disability movement has a voice and know what they are talking about. A number of groups now are coming forward making requests for technical assistance on how to include persons with disabilities.

What are the next steps for the CBM ERU team and it’s advocacy?

There are a few things. First and foremost now we need to put that framework into implementation. We need to work on helping the implementation guidelines to make them as inclusive as possible. Secondly, there are global targets for the framework and there will be regional and national indicators developed and we need to make sure that these indicators are disability inclusive. So now the advocacy needs to happen at regional level. 

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