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“What will we eat while waiting for the crops to grow?” (February 2020)

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The adoption of the 2030 Agenda commits United Nations Member States to ensure that “no one will be left behind” and to “endeavour to reach the furthest behind first.” Within this overarching context, shifts in how humanitarian and longer-term development work are conceptualized and resourced could help ensure that the rights of those hitherto “left behind” can be met in the face of disasters. Specifically, a greater emphasis on local humanitarian leadership and on resilience is relevant to achieving these higher-level commitments.

First, the notion of local humanitarian leadership recognizes that local people and organizations are typically the first responders after disasters, and their intimate knowledge of the context means that they can be best placed to lead risk reduction efforts. In response, the global humanitarian community has promised increased resources to local and national actors through the Grand Bargain made at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, although progress on these promises has not been as rapid as many hoped.

Second, a greater focus on resilience—the ability of women and men to realize their rights and improve their well-being despite shocks, stresses, and uncertainty—among humanitarian and long-term development practitioners has been shown to increase the impact and costeffectiveness of aid, reduce the impact of hazards, and provide faster and more sustainable recovery when crises occur.

This research seeks to identify elements of disaster risk reduction (DRR) projects and climate change adaptation (CCA) projects that have facilitated speedy and effective early recovery among “off-the-radar” communities subject to natural hazards in the Asia-Pacific region. In the context of this research, off-the-radar communities are broadly defined as communities that are geographically or politically far from the centers of political power. As a consequence, they tend to receive less funding for risk reduction and emergency response. In other words, they are left behind, and the impacts of disasters may leave them still further behind.

The overall approach to answering these questions was to conduct research into five completed DRR or CCA interventions that are thought to have facilitated communities’ early recovery from natural hazards, with a specific focus on women’s roles, voice, and organizations in the recovery. The interventions are from the Philippines (two), Vanuatu (two), and Vietnam (one).
Field research—a combination of focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews with community members and project officers—was conducted in four of the five sites, and this information was supplemented by literature. The fifth intervention, in Vietnam, was conducted solely on the basis of existing literature. Information was captured systematically from all interventions using a framework adapted from Twigg’s Characteristics of a Disaster-Resilient Community.

The research is presented as five case studies that attempt to give voice to community members’ own experiences and perceptions of disaster recovery where possible, with a synthesis in the final section of the report.

The main findings from across the five interventions are as follows:

• Recovery is multifaceted. Perhaps the most obvious common thread between the case studies (not including Vietnam, where we were unable to interview community members) is that recovery from a disaster, in the experience of the people we interviewed, was not a single process with a distinct end, but rather a series of parallel but interconnected trajectories. In most cases, psychological and food security recovery were judged to have occurred relatively rapidly (weeks to months); recovery of shelter, more slowly (one year or more); and recovery of livelihoods, most slowly (one to three or more years).

• Early recovery in off-the-radar communities poses special challenges. The case studies represent different facets of being off the radar, including geographical, political, and economic marginalization. For reasons including cost and political will, it is typically more challenging for national agencies and NGOs to work in these types of communities. It is possible to work in these communities—as the case studies here demonstrate—but it is likely to require that technical and financial resources be directed specifically toward off-theradar communities in order for their rights to be realized.

• Local leadership of risk reduction and recovery varies. This research has examined some very different interventions that involve a range of local leadership models. Only one intervention (Eratah, in Vanuatu) was both conceptualized and implemented entirely by a community. The local government of Salcedo (Philippines) led conceptualization and implementation with support from external organizations. Two of the remaining interventions were co-conceptualized by an international NGO and a local organization (Dulag, in the Philippines; Da Nang, in Vietnam). The work in Epau (Vanuatu) was apparently conceptualized by a consortium of principally international NGOs. The interventions in Epau and Da Nang included strong components of capacity building of local organizations. The case of Eratah additionally shows the limits of local leadership; in the absence of external funding and technical support, the intervention is inevitably restricted.

• Preexisting relationships support effective recovery. Clear, agreed-upon, and stable partnerships between communities and other actors are a known factor in community resilience. In four out of the five case studies, existing relationships between communities and agencies were considered important factors in effective recovery.

• Results of DRR and recovery for women were mixed. In all five cases, women were consulted, were often involved in making decisions, and were generally aware of disaster management and contingency plans. In some cases, however, women not aware of their rights during disasters, formal women’s groups were not included in risk reduction and recovery, and interventions failed to support women’s groups and leadership. Moreover, some of the risk reduction and recovery outcomes did not take women’s needs and rights into account.