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Including Persons with Disabilities in Disaster Risk Reduction: A Research Study from Eight Countries of Africa, Asia and South/Central America

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Executive summary

Persons with disabilities are among those most impacted by natural hazards and climateinduced disasters, yet more likely to be excluded from disaster risk reduction (DRR) related decision-making and practice.

In 2021, a consortia of Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund Deutschland e.V. (ASB), Centre for Disability in Development (CDD), Christian Blind Mission (CBM), International Disability Alliance (IDA), and Malteser International (MI), funded by the German Federal Foreign Office commissioned a study on disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction (DiDRR) policy and practice across eight countries of Africa (Niger, Uganda, Zimbabwe), Asia (Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar) and South/Central America (Nicaragua, Colombia).

This report, “Including Persons with Disabilities in Disaster Risk Reduction,” describes progress, gaps, and good practices identified in relation to disability-inclusive DRR policy and practice across the eight countries, as well as provides a brief regional analysis. The report concludes with recommendations to support improved disability-inclusive DRR.

This study aimed to generate solid evidence on the current state of implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 to inform advocacy at national, regional, and global levels. The Sendai Framework distinguishes itself from its predecessors, the Yokohama Strategy and the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, by recognizing persons with disabilities as contributing actors to DRR. The findings and recommendations from this study are expected to contribute to the implementation and monitoring of the Sendai Framework, including the mid-term review of the Sendai Framework taking place in 2022.

The DiDRR study identified the following key findings:

  • Implementation remains slow on the ground, despite the increase in supportive policies and legislations related to disability-inclusive DRR.

  • Rights-based approaches are largely missing from policy and practice, with prevailing reference to persons with disabilities as “vulnerable” groups in need of assistance and protection, rather than as key stakeholders and contributing actors to DRR.

  • No unified national registry or systematic data disaggregation is in place to leverage national information systems related to DRR.

  • Staff lack practical knowledge for implementation of disability-inclusive DRR and lack capacity to access available technical resources provided by the members of the Disability-inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Network (DiDRRN) and other key actors.

  • Lack of funding is a common challenge and is seen as contributing to the limited progress in disability-inclusive DRR across most of the countries.

The study revealed that most disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction initiatives come from non-governmental stakeholders, rather than government agendas aimed at prioritizing and institutionalizing disability inclusion. These initiatives are often reactive (following disaster responses by governments and I/NGOs) or project-based (externally funded instead of being included in the annual budget planning), which raises concerns about the sustainability of these actions and the DiDRR itself.

The study found that involvement of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) varies due to the layered challenges and is contingent upon at least the following two factors: (i) the readiness and capacities of persons with disabilities to take on new roles as contributing DRR actors, and (ii) the existing challenges within the sociocultural ecosystems2 in which OPDs operate. These challenges are linked to context and social structures, availability of resources to act, and support of mainstream stakeholders.

There is a clear need for making DiDRR a shared agenda and developing strategies aimed at institutionalizing disability-inclusive DRR. Stakeholders must rethink approaches to collaboration and begin applying a twintrack approach to disability inclusion, to the extent possible.

The DiDRR study findings point to the need for an urgent and collective action to reduce disaster and climate change related risks and their disproportionate impact on persons with disabilities considering the full diversity of disability. The findings were used to formulate the following key recommendations:

  • Raise awareness and improve the understanding of disability inclusion and disaster risk reduction among all relevant stakeholders.

  • Establish effective governance mechanisms and institutionalize cross-sectoral coordination between all stakeholders for disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction and risk management.

  • Ensure systematic resource allocation to build capacities, institutions, and mechanisms for mainstreaming disability inclusion in DRR.

  • Institutionalize disability-inclusive DRR commitments by supporting meaningful participation and leadership of persons with disabilities and investing in inclusive partnerships.

Inclusive DDR efforts require making DiDRR a shared agenda and increased multistakeholder collaborations and partnerships among governments, I/NGOs, UN agencies, OPDs, and civil society actors, which can encourage further resource and capacity sharing. Extended collaborations are needed with donors as the main trend-setting actors under which I/NGOs and government align. Assistance in transfer of capacities should be provided by the members of the DiDRR Network to other DRR actors in collaboration with national and local authorities and OPDs (e.g., through training curriculums and formulation of strategies for nationwide roll-out).