Less Talk, More Action
The stakes are certainly high. The number of climate-induced disasters increased by an average of 4.1% a year from 1990 to 2010, and the world can ill afford to indulge in a talking shop about the problem without making progress to protect the vulnerable.
The high point of the week for me was accepting the prestigious Sasakawa Award for Disaster Risk Reduction (see picture) on behalf of the National Alliance for Risk Reduction and Response Initiatives (NARRI) – an umbrella group of ten international humanitarian agencies working to reduce the impact of natural disasters on some of the most vulnerable communities in Bangladesh.
Islamic Relief Bangladesh was a founder member of NARRI, and the award is welcome recognition for what the chair of the judges called “a remarkable initiative that has demonstrated the scale of impact that can be achieved by working in collaboration”.
Collaboration is certainly the key if we are to be successful in protecting the most vulnerable against disasters. NARRI works in close partnership with government-mandated authorities such as the Department for Disaster Management, the Directorate General for Health Services, and the Fire and Civil Defence Service.
Strong leadership needed
Strong leadership and coordination from government are vital to ensure that expertise and experience are shared, and to avoid duplication and fragmentation of efforts.
Another key ingredient in successful disaster risk reduction is involving local communities. The communities that Islamic Relief Bangladesh works with play an active role in planning, designing and implementing their own DRR projects. They identify their own priorities, elect disaster management committees and ensure that every family is capable of taking action to protect itself.
Islamic Relief might be getting recognised at international level for its DRR approach, but there is no room for complacency. Much more needs to be done to integrate disaster risk reduction into broader climate change adaptation programmes, with targets built into the post-2015 development framework, to ensure that DRR is not neglected and that scarce resources go further.
Building bridges with the private sector
Another priority is to build bridges with the private sector and the scientific community. Stronger partnerships in this area have the potential to bolster the best work of local communities with new high-tech approaches – such as the use of mobile phones as part of early-warning systems.
Most significantly, at the global level the proportion of aid budgets spent on disaster risk reduction is still hopelessly inadequate. Well intentioned initiatives, such as the My City is Getting Ready campaign, may look good on paper but they are crying out for funding and local government support.
Despite the undoubted progress made in Geneva, I can’t help feeling that we are spending too much time discussing frameworks, terminology and ideas and not enough time and resources turning all those ideas into reality.