By Linda Low, IFRC
At the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), Bekele Geleta, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) called on governments, the private sector, civil society and individuals to all play their part in building resilient communities. He said government policy, private investment, individual action civil society facilitation were vital to the cause.
This same theme was echoed at a side event focusing on climate change resilience, which was coordinated by the IFRC with a number of partners. The event was hosted by Walter Cotte, Undersecretary General for Programmes and Services at the IFRC, and he was joined by panellists from UNDP, Zurich Insurance, ACT Alliance and the Nepal Red Cross Society.
UNDP policy specialist Rajeev Isaar spoke about climate change, and how it will affect crops such as coffee, on which many countries rely for exports. He said decreased crop production affects livelihoods and socio-economic development, and so should play a significant part in risk reduction plans.
Thomas Sepp, Chief Claims Officer at Zurich Insurance reiterated the need for risk transfer strategies in DRR. He listed some of the world’s recent events such as Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Japan, in which Zurich had been involved in supporting recovery from an insurance perspective. But he stressed that other events such as landslides and floods in many developing countries do not rely on insurance and in these cases, risk transfer solutions such as access to pre-arranged financing by individuals and businesses post-disaster are important to the recovery process. Where pre-arranged financing is not available after a disaster, many countries face major financial challenges.
Pitambar Aryal, director of disaster management at the Nepal Red Cross Society said his National Society supports all levels of government to help build DRR in communities. Staff and volunteers support the development of local and national adaptation plans which include livelihood promotion, environmental protection and incorporating the role of children and women in DRR.
Act Alliance Chairman Peter Rottach agreed that communities are central to DRR, but cautioned participants on the tendency to overlook the broader context. He agreed with panellists that community participation is key, but said they were not homogeneous as there are differences in power structures and wealth distribution, and therefore certain voices – the elderly, chronically sick and minorities – may not be heard. He said systematic and objective risk assessment approaches were vital, so that results were consistent regardless of the assessor.
The session closed with a passionate call to action from Walter Cotte. He encouraged delegates to listen more to their communities, to support the creation of simple, practical, direct lines of action, and to serve as a catalyst for best practices in DRR. He said: “Vulnerability is not necessarily a lack of capacity. We need to help lift up communities to improve their own destinies.”