2.3. Community Disaster Resilience: Protecting Development Gains in Fragile Situations

Chair: Dr. Tim Prior

Panelists: Dr. Bina Desai; Ms Katie Peters; Ms Nicole Stolz

Rapporteur: Lukas Meyer, Center for Security Studies

Although fragile contexts typically worsen the impact of natural hazards, most investments in disaster preparedness have been allocated to non-fragile countries. This panel explored how integrated disaster risk reduction (DRR) can increase community resilience in vulnerable situations, especially those exacerbated by conflict, and what measures need to be taken to close the aforementioned gap.

Resilience reflects a community’s ability to anticipate and absorb disasters, which can be strengthened by disaster risk reduction, the practice of reducing hazard exposure and sensitivity. However, in the context of development policy, DRR has received marginal attention. Most assistance linked to natural hazards has been dedicated to emergency response and reconstruction efforts rather than disaster preparedness and prevention. The panel mentioned that the thirty top-ranked countries in receiving help after the occurrence of natural hazards do not appear among the top thirty DRR funding-receiving countries – which can be read, in simplified terms, that the countries with large risks of disaster receive little or no assistance in reducing these risks. Community disaster resilience can be developed through effective early warning and communications systems, the right response policies and infrastructure as well as sufficient funding.

It was argued that fragile country contexts exacerbate social vulnerability to natural hazards due to an often-observed lack of governance. Low-capacity governments typically struggle with providing their communities with even basic state services. The panel discussed different case studies, which revealed barriers to the implementation of adequate DRR policies, including the lack of financial and technical means as well as poor governance structures.

The panelists also discussed the results of the 2015 policy frameworks, in particular the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement on climate change, as well as the new sustainable development goals. One panelist contended that these frameworks lack a) stronger support mechanisms for communities that are in situations of both conflict and heightened hazard risks; and b) awareness of the social vulnerability implications of the nexus between climate change, conflict and fragility. While the framework adopted in Sendai emphasises preparedness and preventive actions as important contributions to reducing vulnerability to disasters and to developing resilience, it was also argued that the Sendai framework neglects the link between DRR and conflict. In order to better connect humanitarian and development activities for more effective and efficient disaster risk reduction in fragile contexts, there needs to be more cooperation across institutions, fora and disciplines. While addressing issues within one so-called silo is important, the international community needs to better link different research agendas and interests in order to overcome the current marginalization of DRR in international humanitarian work and development.

The panelists agreed that fragile situations exacerbate social vulnerability to natural hazards, with the result of greater initial impact from these hazards and longer recovery times. Nine out of ten top recipients of humanitarian relief witness protracted crisis. They confronted the audience with different numbers underscoring the evident mismatch between total development assistance and funding for disaster on the one hand, and between disaster response and reconstruction and DRR on the other. They emphasised the need for local-level actions in fragile communities, while calling the international community to overcome different institutional or disciplinary agendas in order to move from mere humanitarian aid in disaster aftermath to a more holistic approach to DRR in vulnerable communities.