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OPINION: Building resilient communities under HFA2

Bruno Haghebaert, Susanna Tol and Donna Lagdameo of the Partners for Resilience programme introduce their recommendations for a robust international framework on disaster risk reduction, in the HFA2.

The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA): Building Resilient Nations and Communities, agreed to by Member States in 2005, is coming up for revision in 2015. The ‘Partners for Resilience’ programme proposes three key messages to be addressed in the Post-2015 Hyogo Framework (HFA2) for building safe and resilient nations and communities.

A new Policy Brief articulates the positions of the organisations allied under the Partners for Resilience Programme, a five year programme which aims for the integration of climate change adaptation and ecosystem-based approaches into disaster risk reduction (DRR) programs. The integration of these approaches has resulted in, amongst others, the development of new tools for making risk assessments and for planning ‘ecosystem and climate-smart DRR activities’, as summarised on the final page of this policy brief.

Our key messages for the Post-2015 Hyogo Framework are therefore as follows:

1. Recognise the key role of ecosystems for DRR

Healthy ecosystems can play a key role in hazard mitigation and can even prevent hazards from occurring. On the other hand, ecosystem degradation enhances disaster risk. Therefore, ‘environment’ should be treated as a cross-cutting issue in HFA2. Ecosystem degradation should be recognized as a root cause of increased disaster risk, and urgent action for the restoration and appropriate management of ecosystems as a means to increase community resilience as well as to reduce disaster risk and the impacts of climate change should be promoted.

As such we recommend that the post-2015 Hyogo framework (HFA2):

– Acknowledges ecosystem degradation as a root cause of disaster risk and notes that the rapid and accelerating rate of wetlands (such as mangroves, lakes, rivers, peatlands, and other catchment wetlands or floodplains) compounds the risks and impacts of increasingly occurring water related disasters.

– Recognises that fully-functioning ecosystems build local resilience against disasters by sustaining livelihoods and providing important services such as water supply and important products to local populations.

– Acknowledges that intervention is required in ecosystems that risk losing their function of providing services that help reduce the impact of disasters.

– Accords ‘environment’ as a cross-cutting issue in the new framework, considering the multiple feedbacks between environment and disasters and the fact that healthy ecosystems can reduce disasters by influencing hazards, exposure and vulnerability.

– Recognises that vulnerability can be exacerbated at different geographical scales and call upon Member States to conduct landscape level assessments of community risk (e.g. within a river basin, along coastlines).

– Urges Member States to take substantive actions to integrate ecosystem approaches (ecosystem conservation, rehabilitation and sound use of ecosystems), and in particular wetland and water management considerations, as a means to address the underlying causes of disaster risk, in all national policies with relevance to disaster risk reduction efforts. In particular, encourages Member States to mainstream such considerations in their national disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategies, local, regional and national water management and land-use plans, and national development strategies.

– Includes a set of indicators to the the HFAII monitoring system which enable the measuring of environmental aspects in disaster risk management. For a proposed set of indicators we refer to UNEP’s Proposal to the Indicator Family (Annex I).

2. Increase support for community action and promote connection between local actors.

Community level involvement and interventions are crucial to the success of any disaster risk reduction effort. HFA2 should acknowledge and promote a central role for local communities in DRR interventions (risk assessments, planning and implementation) as active participants contributing valuable local knowledge and expertise and sharing in local level governance. Promoting community-self management and negotiating difference between actors about agenda’s, values and scales is essential.

As such we recommend that the post-2015 framework on DRR (HFA2):

– Acknowledges that resilient communities are the foundation of a resilient society and that to achieve lasting impacts it is essential to engage risk communities and local actors in all disaster risk reduction efforts, as key drivers of change.

– Urges Member States to prioritise the most at-risk, poorest and marginalized population groups, in particular those living in areas affected by insecurity and conflict, in national disaster risk reduction policies and interventions.

– Urges Member States to decentralize decision-making and resource allocation for disaster risk reduction interventions to the appropriate local level.

– Urges Member States to build up the capacity of local authorities in systematically conducting participatory community risk assessments.

– Recognises the role of local and indigenous knowledge as central to informed risk assessments and policy decisions, in addition to scientific knowledge.

– Includes a family of indicators to the HFAII monitoring system to enable measuring progress on risk management at the local level at the most-at-risk areas, which should be based on the Views of the Frontline Studies, carried out by the Global Network of CSOs for DRR.

3. Integrate adaptation and DRR and enable better use of climate science across time scales.

Climate change adaptation (CCA) and DRR should be more closely linked in HFA2. Scientific information on changing risk patterns across different time scales (short, medium and long- term) should be integrated into decision-making and financing mechanisms.

As such we recommend that the post-2015 framework on DRR (HFA 2):

– Emphasises that changing risk patterns, extreme events and vulnerability brought about by climate change need to be considered and integrated in all DRR policies, platforms, plans and budgets.

– Urges breaking down the barriers in institutions, policies, and financing mechanisms between (i) climate change adaptation (ii) disaster risk reduction (iii) civil defense and humanitarian response.

– Facilitates use of risk information for anticipatory action across timescales, including through support for climate services (across scales, from local communities to national government agencies)

To read the full position paper of the Partners for Resilience programme, download the Policy Brief.



CDKN has supported this publication under a three – year partnership with the PfR members. The aim is to inform and shape policies for scaling up climate-smart community resilience building, using evidence-based lessons learnt from PfR experiences in Indonesia and the Philippines. For more information contact

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