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OPINION: Integrating climate-smart DRM in key sectors, what does it take?


Dina Khan, CDKN Project Manager, reflects on some of the key questions the upcoming learning and innovation hub on DRM in Asia will examine.

Natural disasters are costing lives, livelihoods and putting development at risk in Asia. Between 1980 and 2010 Asia has suffered 51% of the world’s reported fatalities from natural catastrophes (1.16 million people)[1]. More than any other region, disaster risk management is of critical importance in Asia.

New evidence has shown that the situation is actually getting worse. The IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Extremes and Disasters (SREX) – for which CDKN drew out the ‘lessons for Asia’ – showed that even without taking climate change into account, disaster risk will continue to increase in many countries as more people and assets are exposed to weather extremes. And with the effect of climate change factored in, the risk and probability of disaster impact shoots up much higher.

This is of course bad news for growth and prosperity in any society; natural disasters such as cyclones, storms, and floods have been causing damages in billions of dollars to developing countries in Asia recent years, undoing years of incremental gains and progress in impacted communities. In the first 9 months of 2011, 80% of all economic losses from natural disasters occurred in Asia Pacific. And that’s not taking into account the impact of slow onset climate related disaster such as droughts and sea level rise.

This all points to the need for an integrated approach to managing disaster risk, tackling climate change and fostering sustainable development. As the interconnections between ‘climate’, ‘disaster’ and ‘development’ becomes more obvious, there is growing interest and experimenting world over to find effective methods for achieving the integration of these elements in national and global planning.

CDKN is keenly supporting the evolution of integrated planning approaches in Asia. It is piloting new methods and tools to mainstreaming climate-smart DRM into the development planning process, working with local and national governments and stakeholders across the region. Following three years of dedicated involvement and investment in this area, CDKN is convening regional partners this months to look at what we are collectively learning about effective DRM and how we can scale-up this learning to have a greater impact.

The contexts and specifics of our innovations are extremely diverse. From a new approach for comprehensive climate risk assessments in Central Asia which considers both short-med term disaster risk, as well as longer-term climate risks; to the advancement of disaster and climate resilient construction in India and Vietnam using a cost-benefit analysis approach; to establishing a disaster risk insurance scheme for vulnerable communities in Pakistan.

CDKN, with support from partners Future Considerations and SUMERNET, will be facilitating a highly participatory 2.5 day programme that will work with partners to draw out what we can learn from this diverse portfolio in terms of incorporating climate smart DRM into national plans and programmes and the priority challenges and opportunities we need to consider moving forward with the ‘integrated development’ mission.

Our focus will be on five areas: Evaluation of disaster risks; Planning; Finance; Spreading Innovation, and Leadership and Collaboration – the inspiration for which is the below framework from Bettencourt et al. (2006) for evaluating risk, planning, financing and implementing DRM plans.[2] CDKN’s 2012 Guide on ‘Tackling exposure: Placing disaster risk management at the heart of national economic and fiscal policy’ is also on the ‘required reading list’ for the participants before they arrive

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Following this structure, we aim to identify new insights, practices and models which can contribute to the wider debate about what climate smart DRM at the national level looks like. This will require some ‘deep dives’ into those questions which we are familiar with, but currently lack good answers for.

Understanding and evaluating risk: There are multiple approaches and tools cropping up to climate and disaster related risk evaluations, including some that are championed by CDKN’s partnering institutions. But which have proven to be effective and worthy of replication? For example, how do they take into account the long-term view necessary for Government planning, as well as the interconnectedness of risks in different sectors? And, which are able to communicate the science in a language and format that is appropriate and useful for policy-makers?

Planning and investing with disaster risk in mind: What kind of barriers and entry points have our partners come across when attempting to mainstream DRM into sectoral planning or root it into high level policy? And what kind of pre-conditions and enabling factors in terms of policy, regulatory frameworks, investment environment etc. are needed to plan for effective DRM? Our partners experience with public-private partnerships and the success factors involved in this will also be interesting to understand.

When our partners have managed to get new approaches to DRM implemented through the regulatory and legislative process, which agency and individual championed it within Government? For many, the private sector has proven to be an effective route but what are the necessary pre-conditions for this to happen?

Securing consistent and effective financial resources: There are a number of possible sources of long-term financing for effective DRM, but which have proven to be accessible and/or effective? To get DRM mainstreamed within national budgets, how can ministries of finance be convinced to make DRM part of core business? And how does DRM financing connect with climate change funds?

Spreading innovation: Many of CDKN’s projects involve local-level innovations where new ideas and approaches are being piloted. How can policy-makers and partners identify and promote the most promising of these? Is there a capacity gap that needs to be overcome when attempting to scale-out community-based initiatives elsewhere?

Fostering leadership and collaboration: Cutting across all our projects, and the above themes, are champions within Government who partner with outside experts. Given this, how can this be further incentivised and nurtured?

These are some of the questions on our mind as we go into the learning discussion with partners and experts. At the end of this exercise, we hope to come out with a ‘call for action’ which will capture what CDKN and our partners have learnt, and puts forward some key recommendations for decision makers  working in key sectors at the national level and those supporting, funding, and advising them to take forward integrated DRM.

*To learn more about CDKN’s work on DRM across the world, read our special edition newsletter.

Photo Courtesy of amirjina @flickr creative commons


[1] : Münchener Rückversicherungs-Gesellschaft, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE, 2011

[2] Bettencourt, S., Croad, R., Freeman, P., Hay, J., Jones, R., King, P., Lal, P., Mearns, A., Miller, G., Pswarayi- Riddihough, I., Simpson, A., Teuatabo, N., Trotz, U. and Van Aalst, M. (2006) Not if, but when: adapting to natural hazards in the Pacific Islands region: a policy note. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, East Asia and Pacific Region, Pacific Islands Country Management Unit.

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