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OPINION: Are donors blind to the ‘missing link’ in DRR?

Our guest blog is from Maggie Ibrahim, International Programme Coordinator, Reducing Vulnerability at Practical Action UK. 

The Disaster Risk Reduction Global Assessment report of 2009 stated that a ‘missing link’ is impeding the integration of disaster risk reduction (DRR) into development processes: meso-level government.

Practical Action’s experience in Nepal has shown that working with meso-level (district level) government has been crucial to ensuring safer and more resilient livelihood strategies in communities. The districts of Chitwan and Nawalparasi have both been involved in linking community-based DRR plans to district development plans. As a result, more district-level resources are being earmarked for DRR at the village level.

Despite attempts by Practical Action to scale up this approach and link the district level to national and community levels, work is slowed by lack of support from the donor community. Most DRR funding goes directly to national governments (e.g. through the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery) or to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for local implementation. Little funding is available to help NGOs bridge the gap between national-level policies and local-level plans through collaboration with meso-level governance systems.

Practical Action has worked to build capacity and foster institutional linkages by:

  • developing institutional frameworks for climate-smart community-based disaster risk management (DRM)
  • bringing together ministerial levels and district governments
  • setting up village, district and national project coordination committees
  • offering training at each level on DRM that is centred around climate-smart livelihoods.

By building capacity and working with meso-level governance systems, Practical Action is promoting a sustainable approach to DRR that has both short- and long-term impact. A recent cost–benefit analysis of our DRR work in Nepal revealed that a livelihoods-centred approach to DRR was a very cost-effective way of improving the lives of marginalised people. However, this analysis omitted capacity building at the district level, as the benefits were hard to measure in financial terms.

Perhaps donors’ focus on cost-effective results at the community level is blinding them to the importance of investing in the missing link: meso-level governance systems? As we approach the International Day for Disaster Reduction, Practical Action calls for the spotlight to be firmly placed on this missing link.

Image: Community at discussion of water supply and sanitation. Kaski, Nepal. Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

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