Communities come first – charting a new direction for disaster risk reduction

By Reeni Amin Chua in Indonesia

From 21–25 October 2012, more than 50 Red Cross Red Crescent delegates joined over 2,600 participants from 72 countries at the 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (5th AMCDRR). Hosted by the Indonesian Government in the city of Yogyakarta, the conference brought together participants from government, academia, the private sector, the UN, civil society and the media, to reinforce the importance of strengthening local capacity for disaster risk reduction, and to forge the way forward towards establishing a new international framework to replace the existing Hyogo Framework for Action after 2015.

As the AMCDRR drew to a close: one message echoed loud and clear – reducing vulnerability to disasters is a process that must be people-centred. Hazard-prone communities must be central to decision making and legislative processes for development to be effective. Development is not a process owned and directed by governments and donors, but one that needs to be supported by robust local level planning in which local and national governments work effectively in partnership with those most likely to be affected by catastrophe.

During interventions in plenary and technical sessions, plus in an array of side events, the Red Cross Red Crescent delegation urged governments and other partners to improve collaboration, helping to bridge the divide between humanitarian response and development.

“Strengthening community resilience and reducing disaster risks are critical elements in promoting sustainable development. They must be part of the international development agenda beyond 2015, post-Hyogo Framework for Action and the Millennium Development Goals,” said Budi Adiputro, Secretary General of the Indonesian Red Cross Society, which continues to be a key partner with the Indonesian government in creating safe environments for vulnerable communities.

The Red Cross Red Crescent also called on governments to review their legal frameworks to adequately address disaster risk reduction at the community level, and for more resources to be directed into risk reduction efforts.

The conference reached a major milestone with the adoption of the Yogyakarta Ministerial Declaration. The declaration clearly emphasized the aspirations of the Red Cross Red Crescent, with commitments to strengthen laws and regulations for disaster risk; support to local risk reduction efforts with sufficient financing through public and private partnerships; and emphasis on the need for risk governance through improved participation, transparency, accountability, effectiveness and efficiency.

The declaration also called for successful community-based risk reduction initiatives to be replicated and scaled up at all levels and for common targets and indicators for resilient communities to be developed. It promoted the need for an inclusive multi-hazard approach that involves women, children, the elderly, and people living with disabilities in assessments and planning processes to reduce risks. It also called upon governments and the private sector to integrate risk reduction in land use planning and disaster resistant infrastructure and to improve access to knowledge and scientific information available to ‘at risk’ communities.

“It was positive to see so many of the issues that we have advocated on for included in the final declaration,” said Al Panico, acting head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Asia Pacific Office. “There is clear recognition that people at risk from disasters must be empowered. Post 2015, we should see disaster risk reduction feature more prominently on the international development agenda.”

The Yogyakarta Declaration will help to set the stage and map the discourse in developing a robust disaster risk reduction framework post-2015 at the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan.