EFDRR, Inclusiveness and equality in disaster risk reduction strategies

November 23, 2018

This is the theme of the opening plenary session on the third day of the Forum

Protecting lives: the ultimate aim of disaster risk reduction strategies. The session Every life counts: inclusive and equality based DRR strategies is undoubtedly the ideal core for the final day of the Civil Protection International Forum under way in Rome.
All lives are important, and it is in this light that we must interpret risk reduction strategies and assess their effectiveness and compliance with the Sendai Framework.

Alexander Virgili opened the session, presenting the experience of Children and Youth, an organisation that aims to bridge the gap between young people and the UN system in formal and informal settings. “I come from a difficult, fragile region between the two red zones of Campi Flegrei and Vesuvius”, told Virgili. “Because of this, from a very young age I approached the world of civil protection through volunteering. Living in one of Europe’s most at-risk areas immediately taught me the value of prevention and now I too am trying to involve young people in disaster reduction. One third of beneficiaries of policies and strategies are young people. Involving the younger generations is therefore essential. Young people are an integral part of the solution. They are not, therefore, mere beneficiaries, but an active part in building resilient communities.

The speech by Erland Hedin followed, who described Sweden’s experience: this year, the fire season was particularly harsh. In fact, around 300 fires affected the nation and 22,000 hectares of forest were completely destroyed. Support from other countries – including Italy – was prompt and effective thanks to the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Hedin, the owner of land that was completely destroyed during the fire emergency, told the Forum about his experience, focussing on the negative after-effects.
After he lost his land to the fire, Herlin decided to get involved personally. The people who live in an area are those who know it best. Farmers, for instance, must be involved and participate in risk reduction strategies and can be an active part of prevention. The lesson learned was that we must be prepared. Residents, as well as tourists, must be aware of the area’s risks so that they are ready in an emergency. The key word, then, is prevention.

Contribution from the United Kingdom came from Kirsty Bagnall, who works alongside the government to involve the most vulnerable groups in risk reduction strategies. A community inclusive of vulnerable people is surely more resilient. Bagnall spoke in particular of the elderly, whose scarce involvement often poses an obstacle to resilience. With the right support, everyone can and must have a role – the media, social networks. These connections are often inaccessible for vulnerable groups and we must break down this barrier so they can become an active part of the social context.

Rustam Nazarzoda, for the Republic of Tajikistan, focussed his speech on stress factors such as political instability, social disorder, disasters and the negative effects on citizens’ safety. Tajikistan is exposed to a number of natural hazards: earthquakes, landslides, flooding. Eight hundred emergency situations in the past five years have caused great damage to the nation, slowing down its growth prospects. Because of this, Tajikistan is creating a national platform for disaster risk reduction in line with the Sendai Framework, with specific measures for disabled people – a large percentage of which in Tajikistan live in gruelling areas and high-mountain villages – and for women, with specific strategies for gender inclusion.

From Austria, Michael Staudinger told the story of a 65-year-old farmer whose land had been left isolated following an avalanche. Climate change has made events more extreme and literally changed the face of the land. This issue, so distant from the ordinary life of regular people, suddenly impacts daily life, becomes “real” and tangible. People must, therefore, be put in the position in which they can react in serious disastrous events. For this Austria has created a platform to discuss climate change with a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach. No one can remain “in their own bubble”. Approaching people, starting with the most vulnerable, means approaching a solution to the problem.

Professor Gilles Reckinger spoke of intercultural integration, describing the experience of an irregular migrant, an “invisible” worker, exposed in Europe to a multiplicity of risks daily. His point was that we must seek an inclusive solution at European level. The vulnerability of refugees is tantamount to the vulnerability of society as a whole. Governments tend to consider migration an anomaly, but it is not. As with all vulnerable groups, even migrants must be involved and included in disaster risk reduction strategies.

From Turkey, Mehmet Güllüoğlu gave his point of view on the need and prospects for change for civil protection. When we talk about safety, in particular in the healthcare sector, we often talk about patients but forget to work with individual people, who each have their own story and experiences. This approach also applies to civil protection. Beginning to look to people, starting with the most vulnerable groups, is fundamental for disaster risk reduction. Güllüoğlu lastly spoke about managing emotions: how must we engage with what people feel? How do we take their fears into account? What do we do to inform them?

These ideas for reflection closed the packed working session, which delivered a common view: a resilient community is only possible if it is aware of differences, is inclusive, open to contribution from all, and excludes no one.

The morning of work continued with technical round tables on various thematic fronts: “Emerging challenges – interwoven risks”, “National and local DRR strategies – addressing target E” and “Game scenario – decisions of the decade”.