7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Disaster risk reduction, resilience, climate change adaptation: Connecting the dots

Disaster risk reduction, resilience, climate change adaptation: Connecting the dots

Wednesday, June 3, 2015 - 18:00 to 19:15

Key points

  • Disaster risk reduction is the cornerstone between humanitarian relief and development.
  • It is the poor and marginalised who feel the main impact of disasters. We can support their fight for resilience by ensuring coherent policy that is implemented on the ground.
  • The great majority of disasters are small scale and localised, so they do not get national and international attention and have to be tackled primarily at the local level.
  • Governments, civil society and academia need to improve connections between the policy areas of disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and development.


Disaster risk reduction is not a sector. It is a way of conducting development in areas prone to disasters, such as flooding or drought. So it is important to break down the barriers between the various policy sectors involved.

The starting point is the local level. Donors and NGOs should support grass-roots initiatives. The problem must be tackled through local-level activism, and international support should aim to build up capacities. A global network that enables local action is needed. It has to address the underlying causes of people’s vulnerability to disasters, and to recognise the impact of those disasters on their lives, livelihoods and assets.

This is a crucial year for disaster risk reduction. In Sendai, Japan, in March, governments agreed on a new international framework.  A number of other major international conferences this year will focus on its structure and financing.

For its part, the EU is trying to involve as many sectors as possible in its new disaster reduction framework, from agriculture and education to culture and healthcare. Above all, it is setting out to promote resilience at the local level.

The European Commission is reorienting its aims to emphasise ‘coordinated resilience’ in its cooperation with third countries. It has a number of projects in which it acts with local people and supports local capacities.

The EU is also promoting ‘resilient investment’ as a means of stimulating economic development without running down natural resources. Development cannot be sustained unless it is resilient.

For example, investing in schools in an earthquake zone without making them earthquake proof would be an irresponsible use of funds. One suggestion was that a study should be funded into the financing, ordering and construction responsibilities for the schools that collapsed in the Nepal earthquake.

One of the most important discussion points in Sendai was the need to strengthen the capacity of local authorities. The European Parliament has pointed out that financing is crucial to disaster risk reduction. Adaptation of social protection systems to cope with disasters is also essential. And coherence within the EU – among institutions and national governments – is important for an effective policy on this complex of issues.

Disasters are not always natural. Conflict disasters are obviously due to human intervention, but flooding, too, is often at least partly due to human intervention on infrastructure and the environment. Understanding ecosystems is central to reducing disaster risks, and local people have the closest knowledge of those systems. This has implications for the political process. Smallholders are often marginalised, while corporations are prominent. To achieve sustainable agriculture, all the stakeholders must have a voice.

It is also important to capture best practices on resilience, and to draw lessons from them. In Sendai, the European Commission launched its Resilience Compendium, a book describing practical examples.

Sustainable land management, sustainable water management, and early warning and action on disasters and climate change were among the priorities cited by the speakers.


‘To our surprise, many people in Somalia did not know what climate change is... But in their fields, they have seen kinds of vegetation coming up that they’ve never seen before... and which is unpalatable to their livestock. So they know that something’s happening in the wild that is affecting their livelihoods.’ – Charles Kevin Otieno, Somalia Program, World Vision International

    Jeroen Jurriens
    Programme Officer Disaster Management Unit
    ICCO Cooperation
    Thomas De Lannoy
    DG ECHO Policy Officer - Policy and Implementation Frameworks
    Chezter Rojonon Buguina
    Child Delegate
    World Vision International
    Charles Kevin Otieno
    World Vision Sector Lead - Livelihoods and Resilience
    World Vision International
    Nicolas Borsinger
    President, NGO Voice
    Marcus Oxley
    Executive Director GNDR
    Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction