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Minimum standards for local climate-smart disaster risk reduction: Informing the development of the post-2015 HFA

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By Carina Bachofen, Knud Falk, Maarten van Aalst, Celso B. Dulce Jr, Munish Kaushik, Donna Lagdameo, Rebecca McNaught, Fleur Monasso, Vincentia Widyasari and Anat Prag

1. Introduction

As the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) draws to an end and disaster-related loss and damage continues to increase, an important opportunity arises to shape and agree upon a successor framework that will enable management of the risks that threaten to reverse vital development gains. These risks are driven by a variety of factors (UNISDR 2013) including climate variability and change, economic and financial crises, environmental mismanagement, demographic change, rapid and unplanned urbanization, and failed governance; they disproportionately impact vulnerable and exposed low-income households around the world.

As the HFA Priority area 4 refers to disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies integrated with climate change adaptation and lists among the “critical tasks for states” to promote the integration of DRR with climate variability and climate change into DRR strategies and adaptation to climate change, considerable effort has been made by agencies to work towards convergence of the DRR and the climate change adaptation agendas. However, despite the obvious overlap, these two agendas have evolved independently and in parallel (Mitchell & van Aalst 2008, Mitchell et al. 2010, Mercer 2010) and have faced different challenges (e.g. Schipper & Pelling 2006). In terms of practical programming, there has perhaps been some risk of “relabelling” classical DRR efforts addressing weather-related risks without consciously incorporating concerns for the change in risk patterns, extreme events and vulnerability partly induced by climate change. In addition, there has been a tendency to initiate stand-alone climate change adaptation (CCA) projects disregarding existing vulnerabilities, in effect “overstating” the adaptation aspects of the project rather than integrating adaptation measures into existing approaches, as recommended in the HFA.

Since the HFA in 2005 more compelling evidence about how climate change has – and continues to – influence disaster risk has emerged (including IPCC AR4 and AR5 and SREX). At the same time, many implementing agencies, in particular civil society organizations, have developed and tested various approaches and tools to integrate climate aspects in (participatory) assessments and planning (IIRR Cordaid 2013, CARE 2009, Wiggins 2012) and considerable effort has been made to bounce ideas and share knowledge across agencies about tools and methods for integrating changing climate risks into DRR through for example, the Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change Conferences, and Development & Climate Days held in the context of the annual UNFCCC Conference of Parties (Bachofen et al 2014, Suarez et al 2013). Through these iterations, some common denominators for climate-smart community programming have started to emerge.

Pilot projects across the world have shown that addressing changing climate and disaster risks at the local level is highly effective for building resilience. Strong capacities and robust institutions at the community level can maximize the impacts of climate-smart disaster risk reduction. Yet for this to happen, it is essential that communities and the organizations supporting them all know how to integrate changing risks into their activities.

While empowering communities and the local organizations that support them to become better at managing their risk, the disaster risk reduction community faces increasing pressure to deliver on a greater scale, and help local actors steer their development trajectories upwards. At the same time, policymakers seek clarity and guidance from practitioners on the standards to set for local climate change adaptation efforts – a crucial component of national adaptation planning. Taken together, these demands call for a simplified set of criteria to ensure community-based DRR programming, as well as broader resilience-building efforts, can guide communities and the organizations supporting them.

To address this growing demand, the Minimum Standards for Local Climate-smart Disaster Risk Reduction (hereafter referred to as “Minimum Standards”) have been developed to provide a ‘good enough guide’ to help local community leaders, DRR practitioners and policymakers ensure DRR efforts are geared to more uncertain future risk patterns induced by a changing climate. The Minimum Standards are meant to serve as a useful guide for planners and donors as well so they may ensure DRR programming is meeting CCA needs and that DRR actions are going beyond business as usual by truly addressing changing climate-related risks. Indeed, recognizing that the Minimum Standards are realistic and achievable, national strategies that consider them will be able to go to scale, also in facilitating the use of climate adaptation finance for local efforts to reduce the rising risk of disaster in a changing climate.

This paper presents the Minimum Standards for local climate-smart disaster risk reduction and details how they can help trigger action on climate change under the post-2015 HFA framework. The first section provides an overview of the Minimum Standards and their relevance for guiding climate-smart action at the community level and at the civil society organisation (CSO) level. The second section presents experience of community level application of the Minimum Standards in the Philippines, Indonesia, and India in the context of the Partners for Resilience Program. To illustrate how the Minimum Standards have been used to strengthen CSO’s capacity to become climate-smart, the third section details the experience of the Vanuatu Red Cross and suggests for this approach to be replicated by other CSOs. In addition, the process by which Australian Red Cross has expanded the Minimum Standards to include gender dimensions of DRR is presented in a final case study. The paper concludes with a discussion of the way forward for maximizing the opportunities to use the Minimum Standards to inform the development of the post 2015 HFA.