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Why is community action needed for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation?

Publication date:
D. Satterthwaite
Type of publication:

This paper is an editorial of various others which bring out the importance of community action for disaster risk reduction, post-disaster rebuilding and climate change adaptation. It highlights the role that disaster-affected communities play in rebuilding their homes and livelihoods, and notes that community led initiatives in post-disaster rebuilding are often cheaper and more effective than external led interventions. It also highlights the role of civil society groups and local government in post-disaster activities and disaster risk reduction.It explains many of the measures which reduce disaster risk were actually only installed in order to supply everyday needs. For example, sewers and drainage systems not only fulfil their primary purpose of meeting daily requirements, but can also be used to cope with storms. Good quality health care services and emergency services that meet everyday needs also form a critical component of disaster risk reduction and rapid, effective post-disaster response. However, in low income nations this is usually not the case, as facilities are often insufficient to reduce disaster risks.The report notes that successful disaster risk reduction and response is achieved when local governments work together with communities, and therefore highlights cases where they have collaborated to successfully design disaster response mechanisms. The paper concludes by noting that a collective spirit is important in ensuring that disaster response and risk reduction activities are implemented effectively, and argues that collective action can also be a tool to make people discuss their needs with each other, thus strengthening the community decision-making processes.The paper gives the following recommendations:

disaster survivors need to be involved in making decisions on rebuilding and livelihood sources
survivors need to manage their own funds collectively as this gives them a measure of independence in working out their particular development needs
there is need to avoid harmful responses to disaster such as evictions
supporting agencies need to work with the local governments in disaster prone regions to build better relationships
national governments should provide the framework of legislation, funding and support for local capacities and institutions capable of responding to disaster risk, and factor in likely changes in risk from climate change
local governments need to bring coherence to agendas that historically have been tackled in isolation such as development, disaster risk reduction, post-disaster response and climate change adaptation.