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Child-Centred Risk Reduction Research-into Action Brief: Including Children in Disaster Risk Reduction

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Abstract

Research shows that inclusion is easier to put forward in policy guidelines than to translate into practice. Inclusion is a long-term process that requires sustainable transfer of power to people, including children, who usually lack the ability to make decisions on matters that affect their everyday life. Inclusion in disaster risk reduction (DRR) requires the genuine participation of children, which is often a long and complicated process. It requires the negotiation of power relations between both children and adults, and between children themselves. Therefore, it is a political process that often generates resistance from those whose privileges are challenged. Inclusion and participation may involve addressing deep-seated and culturally sensitive issues that require careful facilitation if prompted by outside stakeholders. Ultimately, fostering inclusion in DRR means recognising that children, including the most marginalised, are not only vulnerable but display capacities that often constitute a crucial resource in dealing with hazards and disasters.

Introduction

“Disaster risk reduction requires an all-of-society engagement and partnership. It also requires empowerment and inclusive, accessible and nondiscriminatory participation, paying special attention to people disproportionately affected by disasters, especially the poorest. A gender, age, disability and cultural perspective should be integrated in all policies and practices, and women and youth leadership should be promoted” (United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, 2015: 10).

This is how the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) 2015-30 frames DRR, putting “inclusion” as one of its key principles. The framework, which serves as blueprint for international and national policies, promotes inclusion in multiple sections of the overall document.

Inclusion, however, is a tricky concept: research shows that it is easier to put forward in policy guidelines than to translate into practice (Wisner et al., 2012). Inclusion entails sharing power for the benefit of those people, including children, who usually lack the ability to make decisions on matters that affect their everyday life. It is therefore a political process that often generates resistance from those whose privileges are challenged (Williams 2004). Inclusion in DRR requires genuine people’s participation, especially that of people at the margins who prove the most vulnerable in facing hazards and disasters, including children (Twigg et al., 2001).

However, more recent evidence has stressed that this list of often vulnerable groups is not exhaustive and could also include people experiencing homelessness, prisoners, and sexual and gender minorities, as well as people who experience several forms of marginalisation such as children with disabilities and elderly women, among many others (Gaillard and Navizet, 2013; Walters and Gaillard, 2014; Gaillard et al., 2017). Therefore there is a danger in sticking to predetermined lists of particular people to be included in DRR as it may leave many groups even more marginalised and, hence, more vulnerable in facing hazards and disasters. Inclusion of one vulnerable group should ultimately not happen at the detriment of another.