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FEATURE: Changing climate, changing disasters – pathways to integration

Patricia Curmi of the Strengthening Climate Resilience Forum, a consortium of IDS, Plan International and Christian Aid, blogs about a new guide focusing on different routes to integration of the climate adaptation, development and disaster risk management sectors. 

What if climate change adaptation (CCA), disaster risk management (DRM) and development had a Rosetta stone that enabled them to integrate their thinking and actions? It certainly can feel as though the three sectors each speak their own language, where the same words mean very different things. Just go and ask a colleague in DRM, CCA or development what each of those terms mean to them. Chances are their understanding comes from a very different perspective. The result: dangerous oversights caused by a failure to connect, draw on each other’s experience, and integrate the way we prepare and respond to sudden and chronic disasters. This applies to all disasters, but especially to those exacerbated by climate change.

Changing climate, changing disasters: Pathways to integration’ is a new guide from the Strengthening Climate Resilience consortium (IDS, Plan and Christian Aid). Its focus is on a Climate Smart Disaster Risk Management (CSDRM) approach that offers different ‘routes’ to integration (and indicators to track progress) for agencies that work on disaster preparation and response. Linking uncertainty, adaptive capacity and the root causes of vulnerability requires thinking of new ways to build networks – without scrapping the valuable knowledge and frameworks that already exist.

The idea is that you can use the questions from the CSDRM approach to do a ‘self-assessment’ of your organisation, then use this as a resource to dig deeper into existing programmes or policies (or develop new ones). Depending on the areas you identify as weakest or strongest, you choose the entry point to join up the way your organisation prepares for, or responds to, disasters.

Most importantly, being climate smart when it comes to disaster risk reduction does not mean the same thing to everyone: context is key. With ‘Changing climate, changing disasters’, it was crucial to consider what it might mean for government or NGO practitioners working in different contexts – for example, in areas of conflict, or with children – to start thinking about how they could adapt the integration pathways in the guidance to their specific circumstances.

For example, the Practical Action field office Sudan faced a challenge: how to carry out climate smart development in the conflict-affected North Darfur capital of El Fashir. The disaster risk managers and development workers wanted to become better at building climate and disaster resilience, but just how relevant was CSDRM for the complex political, social, economic and environmental context in El Fashir? Using the CSDRM approach in the Changing climate, changing disasters guide, they were able to step back and get a true ‘snapshot’ of the organisational context as well as external and internal partners and stakeholders they could engage with to bridge the gaps.

Other lessons on applying a climate smart approach to DRM have been compiled in the Changing climate, changing disasters guide. These were drawn from projects, programmes and policies in 10 at-risk countries across Asia and Africa. These initiatives either created new ways of working, or adapted their current operations to increase institutional learning and partnership building, or create space for innovation. For instance: how to secure organisational support from within; address uncertainty and knowledge gaps; build vertical and horizontal partnerships to bridge divides; create flexible windows within narrow funding parameters; or engage in the citizen-state relationship.

The CSDRM approach in the Changing climate, changing disasters guide was developed by DRM practitioners, from frontline staff through to trainers, programme managers, and national–level policy-makers. It is designed as a practical, hands-on toolkit. However, life is complex, and it is important to focus on quality solutions rather than ‘quick fixes’. Whether you are planning new programmes, reviewing policy or assessing ongoing efforts, the emphasis here is on learning and reflection.

Let us know your ideas for tailoring the approach in our online community space. Join the growing number of practitioners and policy-makers who are already sharing their CSDRM experiences here.


We occasionally invite bloggers from around the world to provide their experiences and views. The views expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of CDKN.

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