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OPINION: New disasters agreement must learn from peace-building and state-building


Disaster risk management often occurs in fragile and conflict-affected states, and efforts to develop a post-2015 global framework for disaster risk management must reflect this reality, argues Katie Peters of Overseas Development Institute.

This blog is the first in CDKN’s new blog series: ‘Rethinking a new global agreement for disaster risk reduction’   which invites contributors to outline their innovative and concrete ideas for the post-2015 disaster risk management agreement. If you would like to contribute, please contact Amy Kirbyshire.

Countries are working toward a renewed international agreement on disaster risk management (DRM), known in short as the ‘Hyogo Framework for Action 2’. Governments will meet to finalise this compact in Sendai, Japan, 14-18 March 2015. The end goal of a 2015 disaster compact, I believe, is systematic action on DRM by national governments, civil society and private sector; DRM should be woven into investment decisions, policy frameworks and institutional arrangements. Yet for many states, international agreements (despite being shaped by member states) all too often presume that stable, functioning and effective state machinery is in place.

The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 (HFA) – and indeed the majority of work around achieving disaster resilience – contains numerous assumptions about there being a functioning and effective national fiscal and policy architecture in place, into which DRM needs to be better integrated. Can’t we see how mistaken this is? The way we think, talk and act on DRM is overwhelmingly state centric; or to be more precise, it is overwhelmingly ‘functioning and effective state’ centric.

We need to better accommodate the challenges of conflict and fragility in the successor to the HFA. Why? Because other international agreements, such as the Millennium Development Goals largely underachieved because of a failure to adequately accommodate for disaster risk (as the ‘disaster’ folks will tell you) and peace-building and state building objectives (as the ‘conflict’ folks will tell you). Also, recent evidence by the Overseas Development Institute shows a neglect of dealing with natural disasters in contexts affected by conflict and fragility. This is surprising given that between 2005-2009, more than 50% of people impacted by natural disasters lived in fragile and conflict affected states. When adding climate change into the mix, the evidence is clear that more needs to be done to think through how the HFA successor will support disaster management in fragile and conflict affected areas. Future projections show that this is where climate-related disaster vulnerability will be felt most. So how can the HFA2 learn from this experience and be more effective at catalysing and sustaining action on disaster risk management (DRM) in these complex contexts?

New disasters agreement should learn lessons from peace-building and state-building

A new global agreement on managing disasters should learn from previous peace-building and state-building efforts. In practice, this means greater coherence by approaching DRM, peace-building and state-building goals in tandem – where it makes sense to do so. It means better support to countries that are simultaneously committing to reduce disaster risk under the successor to the HFA, against a backdrop of weak or inchoate state institutions, policies and fiscal systems. For example, a recent meeting on DRM hosted by ECOWAS in Niger called for the HFA2 to take explicit consideration of violence, conflict and fragility in comprehensive risk assessments.

It is of great credit to states such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, Niger that are able to engage with the international commitments to reduce disaster risk amidst a mass of other – many in the field of conflict and fragility would argue ‘more important’ – development and governance challenges. But, as the resilience paradigm has taught us, this isn’t about pitting one challenge against another but about finding more effective ways of dealing with the multitude of risks faced within a country context.

DRM, peace-building and state-building worlds are close cousins

A background paper for the Post-2015 Development Agenda highlights that, ‘A minimally functional set of core institutional capabilities is a pre-requisite and foundation for development processes to take root and be sustainable’. So in some respects, whether we like it or not, our achievements for peace-building, state-building, and climate and disaster resilience, are all co-dependent. Our worlds are not that far apart; this is being increasingly recognised.

For example, the need to embed DRM goals into a new global compact for peace-building and state-building is being championed by The Institute for State Effectiveness (ISE). ISE argue that ‘robust natural disaster and environmental management’ adds value by having an effective means of managing scare resources, of dealing with an increasing caseload of disasters (due to climate change), accessing alternative funding mechanisms, and enabling more effective coordination, preparedness and action for humanitarian response. Similarly, a comparison of the Millennium Development Goals to existing peace-building frameworks show common values, which are equally useful for thinking about how to embed existing knowledge on peace-building and state-building into a successor to the HFA, such as the inclusion of all social groups in decision-making processes, or the need to deal with external stresses which can increase vulnerability. We need to build on these overlaps.

What does this mean for DRM in fragile and conflict affected states and for the Sendai text?

A renewed international agreement must be more forthcoming in supporting action on DRM in fragile and conflict affected countries; cognisant of the reality that this requires different ways of working. The Sendai text should articulate the opportunity and potential value of using DRM as a conduit for strengthening policy making processes, fiscal planning and building institutions in difficult governance contexts. If disaster risk is to be effectively and sustainably integrated into the functioning of states and societies the international community must also challenge itself to work in more interconnected ways; bringing together disaster and conflict experts, supporting programming that is informed by a deep political-economy analysis of a conflict context, applying appropriate conflict-sensitive methods for planning interventions and being realistic about the goals that can be achieved.

The Sendai agreement cannot be successful unless it seeks to support the majority of vulnerable communities affected by natural hazards; individuals who live in fragile and conflict affected contexts. The end goals of DRM, peace-building and state-building efforts are complementary – to empower vulnerable communities to pursue peaceful, sustainable development which is resilient to a range of natural and man-made shocks and stresses.

The new disaster compact should therefore be more explicit about the need to support good governance and state-building as a prerequisite to building disaster and climate resilience in any context. I believe there are two clear areas where this can be achieved:

  • For contexts where weak governance is being addressed, DRM can be seen as a conduit for  strengthening the policy formulation processes, national fiscal and budgetary arrangements, and institution building;
  • For vulnerable populations living in areas where the state and/or governance structures are lacking, or where those in power are party to a conflict, better international support can be provided to enhance DRM through local action, local governance arrangements and informal institutions.

On the road to Sendai, support must be provided to governments grappling with conflict and fragility to participate in the consultation process. Specifically, tailored support must be given to representatives of such governments to develop their positions, bolster their negotiating skills and enable quality attendance in the regional platforms, ministerial conferences and preparatory meetings during 2014.

  • Complexity of risk – to include the relationship between natural hazards, climate change, conflict and fragility in risk assessments;
  • Innovation – support more pioneering implementation of DRM in fragile and conflict affected states through a two pronged approach: with government, and though direct local action;
  • Be sensitive - as a bare minimum, adopt climate and conflict-sensitive approaches to DRM through the application of existing tools and processes e.g. embed conflict analysis into a set of minimum standards for ‘good enough’ DRM;
  • Inclusive governance – explicitly support inclusive and conflict-sensitive decision making processes. This could include embedding mechanisms for strengthening accountability and transparency into DRM policies, investments and programmes;
  • Dual benefits – seek opportunities for co-benefits for peace-building and state-building as well as DRM and development progress by using multidisciplinary teams to assess, plan and implement DRM action in challenging governance contexts. For example, including governance and conflict experts in DRM teams and seek to use DRM as a conduit for strengthening policy reform processes, fiscal planning and building institutional capacity.

Effective DRM in fragile and conflict affected states should not be dismissed as ‘too difficult’ or ‘not a priority at this time’. While stopping armed violence is paramount, the evidence increasingly points to conflict and ‘natural’ disaster shocks and stresses occurring simultaneously. Much can be done to reduce, prepare for and manage disaster risk in ways that support peace-building and state-building and vice-versa. Full recognition of this within the post-2015 agreement on disasters is a critical step in ensuring fragile and conflict affected states are not a development basket case for another decade or more.

 

Image: Refugees, Sudan, courtesy Oxfam International.

We occasionally invite bloggers around the world to share their personal opinions. Their opinions are not necessarily those of CDKN or its Alliance members.

 

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One Response to “OPINION: New disasters agreement must learn from peace-building and state-building”

  1. Jan Kellett says:

    Dear Katie,
    If I was going to play advocatus diaboli I would suggest to you that all of what you write makes perfect sense. The question is, does it make sense practically? On innovation, sensitivity to risk, inclusive governance and dual benefits in contexts of multiple challenges (four out of your five ‘supports’ to government) I would imagine you’d find a wide consensus, with the most ardent DRR evangelist saying ‘yes, we can work in those context, and yes, we can incorporate those elements into our disaster risk programming.’
    The challenge is the ‘complexity of risk’, your first of these five bullets. What do we actually mean ‘to include the relationship between natural hazards, climate change, conflict and fragility in risk assessments’? What does it lead to practically? And what does it mean in terms of programming?
    Can we really do DRR in contexts of conflict? Can we do DRR when governance is undermined by government being a belligerent? And if we can, then exactly what would that work consist of?
    Looking forward to views on this.
    Best wishes
    Jan

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