From climate change to Covid, are we prepared for disasters?

Credit: Bibbi Abruzzini
  • Notice by Bibbi Abruzzini (Paris)
  • Inter Press Service

Through this whirlwind of crossed crises, a new toolkit and an interactive website through For us, the Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR), Save the Children Switzerland and Invent futures, with the support of Foundation of France, examines how civil society organizations coordinate disaster risk reduction and post-emergency responses. Aimed at civil society networks, activists, government officials and community organizations, the toolkit provides best practices from around the world.

“Today, we are all actors and victims of crises. How can we better understand them and learn to manage them? These practical tools allow us to discover the challenges, exemplary actions and their effects, through simple definitions and concrete testimonies experienced by civil society, ”explains Karine Meaux, Emergency Manager at the Fondation de France.

“Building resilient communities in the face of natural and man-made hazards has never been more important. While disasters do not discriminate, policies do. Together, we can act and lobby decision-makers to promote a holistic approach to disaster prevention and reduction and truly people-centered policies, ”said Sarah Strack, Director of Forus.

Civil society at the forefront of disaster management

Resilient communities of Nepal, to conflicts in Mali and peace processes in Colombia, the toolkit presents six approaches to disaster risk reduction drawn from case studies compiled in the civil society ecosystem. The toolkit covers a variety of topics ranging from capacity building to local knowledge, resource mobilization, partnerships with governments and long-term sustainable development and resilience of livelihoods, ensuring that communities ‘bounce back’. before ”after a disaster.

Specifically, the toolkit aims to clarify the critical role frontline civil society organizations play in reducing the impacts of disasters amid an expanding and intensifying global landscape of risk. Bringing together governments, communities and experts is the only way to tackle the myriad ways that disasters affect local and social processes such as education, migration, food security and peace. If civil society is not free to function – or even exist – our collective ability to cope with disasters and build long-term resilience is hampered.

“You have countries where civil society is not even allowed to exist. This reality changed a lot after the Arab Spring, with countries living in a terrible crisis, with military conflicts, where the role of civil society now is no longer only to fight for their existence, but also to provide for the population. basic needs and humanitarian interventions. , says Ziad Abdel Samad, director of Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND).

Daily disasters and inequalities

Robert Ninyesiga, from UNNGOF, the national platform of civil society organizations in Uganda, says that in most cases “more effort has gone into disaster response while neglecting the disaster prevention aspect.”

It therefore requires intentional and continuous awareness-raising and capacity building in disaster reduction and can only be effectively achieved if sustainable partnerships between central governments, local governments, civil society organizations, the media and citizens are strengthened.

Shock events, high impact disasters, such as conflicts, earthquakes or tsunamis are just the tip of the iceberg. Under this layer there is an increasing number of “daily disasters“Affecting people all over the world. Small-scale, slow-onset, localized disasters are often “invisible” – out of the spotlight. Low-income people are the most vulnerable and find themselves on the periphery of infrastructure, response systems and media attention.

For example, in addition to being often exposed to intense disasters such as floods and storms, slum dwellers in Bangladesh suffer much more than other communities since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Most of the slum dwellers are daily wage earners, but they are unable to earn any money. They are not able to maintain social distancing because in one room 4-5 members live. Many people use a shared bathroom. It is very difficult to maintain hygiene. There is not enough space to sit or sleep at home while maintaining sufficient distance. Due to lack of money, many slum dwellers eat only one or two meals a day. Violence and sexual harassment are increasing in the community due to the small size of the premises. The children do not go to school ”, explains the Participatory development action program (PDAP) who works in the slums of Dhaka.

These pressures are in addition to the regular “daily” challenges of air pollution and the management of garbage, flooding, flooded land and poor water quality.

Local knowledge and a resilient future

Civil society organizations often fill a huge void and find themselves at the forefront of prevention and emergency efforts. the localization of responses and partnerships are absolutely essential to understand the needs of communities in pre and post disaster scenarios.

In Honduras, civil society has created community-led interventions, to prioritize local action plans across the country.

“Honduras, and Central America more generally, have been affected over the past 10 years by an intensification of disasters, mostly linked to climate change. Our role in helping communities adapt to climate change and cope with disasters is in terms of capacity building, humanitarian assistance and advocacy by creating links between local, national, regional and global levels ”, said Jose Ramon Avila of ASONOG, the national platform of civil society organizations in Honduras.

The intense and cascading nature of the risks, as in the cases of Covid-19 and climate change, poses a serious threat to achieving a sustainable plan and resilient future. Growing experience over the past three decades has revealed that disasters and development are closely linked. Ignoring the impact of disasters makes the pursuit of sustainable development more difficult.

“Sustainable development can only be achieved when the local risk is fully understood. To understand and assess the complex threats and risks, challenges and opportunities facing communities most at risk, it is essential to partner with these people. This practical toolkit provides valuable information and examples from GNDR members and others on how this can be achieved, ”said Bijay Kumar, Executive Director, Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR)

It also been found that much of the negative impact on sustainable livelihoods does not come from large “intensive” disasters, but from many smaller “everyday” disasters. It has become crucial to deal with intensive and daily disasters and to integrate our responses into the overall work to pursue sustainable development.

We must ask ourselves this question: can we build new bridges of solidarity between civil society, communities and governments? Can we prevent and anticipate disasters? Our future is not without catastrophe; In order to build resilient communities, it is crucial to nurture strong roots for our society to flourish.

The author Bibbi Abruzzini is responsible for communication at Forus.
Find the Disaster Risk Reduction Toolkit and Microsite here. Available in English, French and Spanish.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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