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< prev - next > Environment and adaptation to climate change ESRC_briefing_paper_1 (Printable PDF)
Building climate resilience – experiences from disaster
risk reduction
‘The people I work with every day see many clouds – international initiatives and plans – but very
little rain – actual change at the frontline’. This quote from Donald Mtetemela, a development worker
for over 25 years and head of an East African development organization sums up the challenge of
turning the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005–2015 – a global policy blue print for preventing
disasters – into practical, sustainable activity. Lessons may be relevant to scaling up climate
Clouds but little rain’ was the name given to the Views
from the Frontline (VFL) action-learning initiative. This
brought together 7,000 people and 400 organizations in
48 countries in a unique collaborative action designed
to paint a global picture of the progress being made
in implementing disaster reduction activities where it
matters most – amongst vulnerable people.
The VFL review provided substantive evidence that,
despite progress at international and national policy
levels, the greatest barrier to building disaster-resilient
communities is the lack of systematic implementation
of disaster risk reduction activities at the grassroots
level. Reports of progress fade as activities get closer to
vulnerable people, particularly high-risk groups such as
women and children.
Key findings were that:
The foundation for reducing vulnerability is an
understanding of the risks people face, yet this was
one of the lowest scoring areas.
Lack of resources was cited by communities as a
main constraint to progress, but there are resources at
local level which remain untapped.
Turning policy into practice means finding the
right balance between top-down and bottom-up
engagement, through deepened engagement with and
accountability to vulnerable people.
It is not possible to measure effectiveness of policy
interventions without local monitoring framework
and baselines. Connecting measurable inputs at the
national level with measurable outputs and outcomes
at sub-national levels is essential.
Lessons for climate adaptation
Similar challenges will be faced in connecting the
aspirations of internationally and nationally formulated
climate adaptation policies with the realities of
policy execution at the local level. Whilst experts may
differentiate between DRR, CCA and poverty alleviation,
at the household level the issues converge into one
complex inter-related problem which boils down to the
same thing – the security and well-being of people’s
lives, livelihoods and assets.
Accordingly, experience and insights gained through
the realities of DRR execution at the local level provides
relevant learning and policy recommendations that are
transferable to global efforts to build adaptive capacities.
There are many benefits to carrying out an impartial local
level monitoring process such as VFL, for instance:
Building a credible evidence base to link policy and
Establishing local baselines against which to measure
future progress.
Opening opportunities for policy dialogue.
Enhancing transparency and domestic accountability.
Enhancing local research, analytical and advocacy
Possible next steps
The lessons from the first VFL have been significant.
They point towards interesting opportunities for the
future. Could a VFL 2011 develop a participatory model
for measuring climate and disaster resilience at the local
level? Could the VFL survey indicator metrics be adapted
to incorporate climate adaptation considerations? Could
the geographical coverage be extended to other low-
income countries?
Marcus Oxley,
Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for
Disaster Reduction,
100 Church Road,
Teddington, TW11 8QE, UK.
See also
Views from the Frontline Report (June 2009)
Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for
Disaster Reduction