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Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
TUE1.3: Integrative risk management - Examples from member organisations of the Swiss NGO DRR Platform on how to increase resilience
Time: Tuesday, 28/Aug/2012: 8:30am - 10:00am
Session Chair: Nicole CLOT, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation
Location: Sertig

Session organized by the Swiss NGO DRR Platform


Strengthening resilience in the context of learning and transformation

Nicole CLOT1, Nicole STOLZ2, Anton JOEHR3

1Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation; 2Caritas Switzerland; 3Swiss Red Cross, Switzerland

The term “resilience” has increasingly gained importance and has shaped the development agenda and its policies over the last few years. The term is particularly used in the context of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and adaptation to climate change (ACC) and is often considered as the binding force linking development, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. When referring to resilience, it is meant that a community, nation and system is able to anticipate, absorb and recover from the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner, including through ensuring the preservation, restoration, or improvements of its essential basic structures and functions (SREX 2012) and ideally to bounce back better (DFID 2011).

As a response, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (Humanitarian Aid) and a number of Swiss NGOs initiated in July 2010 a dialogue on the importance of DRR in development and humanitarian work. In this context, the Swiss NGO DRR Platform was founded some months later led by three Swiss NGOs (HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Caritas Switzerland and Swiss Red Cross) and comprises today nine members (Medair, Solidar, HEKS, Terre des hommes (Tdh), World Vision and ProActNet).

The vision of the Swiss NGO DRR Platform is to increase the resilience of women and men, communities and governments to all aspects of DRR and ACC. Its main goal is to better adapt to climate trends and shocks, to more effectively mitigate risks and enhance prevention of risks in their humanitarian and development oriented endeavours.

The objective of the event is to discuss ways how Swiss NGOs deal with resilience building through DRR interventions and especially how learning can contribute to strengthening resilience.

Approach / Programme

The session starts with the presentation of three case studies that will cover the following themes:

Caritas Switzerland: Strengthening resilience at community level by linking up community DM structures with Government DM structures - Bangladesh

Swiss Red Cross: Building community resilience by integrating disaster risk reduction and health system strengthening – Honduras

HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation: DRR in social and fragile contexts - Afghanistan

Based on the three case studies, key principles for resilience building will be shared for strengthening and devising more resilient project interventions. For all three organisations respectively in all three case studies, the following principles are at the core of their intervention:
- Capacity building: knowledge and ability to learn are key for DRM and ACC.
- Organisation: strengthening of existing structures at the local level by facilitating linkages between community-based organisations and local authorities.
- Multi-stakeholder: involvement of all stakeholders in the process is a precondition to reduce potential risks.
- Intersectoral approach: Holistic approaches tackle the root causes of vulnerability and therefore contribute positively to development benefits in the immediate term, risk and vulnerability reduction in the long term.

Following the case studies is a brief of the main findings of the SREX related to learning and transformation. The aspect of learning is one of the key principles identified in all three case studies and is indeed crucial in development and humanitarian work. Learning as a process has as well particularly been highlighted in the recently published Special Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX 2012).

The concluding session, stimulated by the case studies and the brief, will then draw particular attention to the aspect of learning and transformation at different levels and will The focus of the discussion is: what were the key moments and methods that allowed to learn, what was learned, how and when systems, processes or organisations transformed? What are current constraints which hamper this learning and transformation? What are favouring and supporting mechanisms?

Building community resilience by integrating disaster risk reduction and health system strengthening

Christina AEBISCHER, Anton JOEHR

Swiss Red Cross, Switzerland

Honduran and Swiss Red Cross started relief and reconstruction programs after hurricane Mitch in 1998, applying a community based approach to strengthen local capacities and focusing on two rural areas covering 200 most vulnerable communities (60’000 people) in 6 municipalities marked by absence of health care services and disaster management and highly exposed to natural hazards. The integrated approach is implemented at household, community and authorities’ level, interlinking risk mitigation and disaster preparedness, public health, education and territorial management. A core strategy lies in strengthening capacities by organization, training and equipment of local committees, linked to and recognized by relevant authorities. Local risk assessments are combined with scientific risk analysis and provide planning instruments for local committees, local and regional authorities and Red Cross programs. Community based capacity strengthening leads to knowledgeable and healthier communities which are able to monitor and manage their risks and improve coping mechanisms. Traditional knowledge combined with scientific analysis improves communities’ ability to adapt to new or changing risks appearing under the climate change impact. The local committees are recognized by and linked to the regional and national systems (health and DM) providing them access to external services and resources. Infrastructure measures do not only mitigate local risks but are an important part of the capacity strengthening process as the community participates fully in planning, fund raising, implementation and maintenance. The integration of health and disaster risk reduction improves the knowledge about the environmental health – healthy environment circle, leading to better management of natural resources and assets. Integrating community based DRR and health system strengthening can contribute to strengthening resilience of local communities. The approach shows a high potential for scaling up and enlarged multi-sector and multi-stakeholder strategies.

DRR in fragile context (Afghanistan)


Helvetas Swiss Intercooepration

HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation has particularly gained experience in the field of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in a fragile context through its DRR project in Afghanistan where it won the renowned Swiss-Re Resource award. In collaboration with local authorities and communities, HSI implements the program in Northern provinces of Afghanistan whose goal is to contribute to improved livelihoods of poor rural population by reducing flood risks and increasing long-term land productivity.

The implementation of DRR in a fragile context requires an even more careful risk assessment in order to fully understand the root causes of vulnerability and to develop DRR sensitive measures. The Sustainable Livelihood Approach is a favorable tool to support risk reduction and strengthen all the six assets that contribute to sustainable livelihoods, making them also more resilient.

The relationship of the two topics is mutually reinforcing. If we do not consider conflict and fragility when working on DRR, we may reinforce tensions and have an adverse effect on conflict leading to a vicious circle.

Identifying the relationships between different stakeholders and their burning issues, we can facilitate local decision-making processes and bridge divisions between competing groups that produce suitable interventions to mitigate disaster risks and at the same time build trust and resilience.

The joint approach tackles the root causes of vulnerability and contributes positively to development benefits in the immediate term, risk and vulnerability reduction in the long term.

A joint approach contributes to shape the conditions for incremental and transformational changes.

DRR measures should build on and strengthen existing tendencies for positive change and social resilience within a society and foster trust. The recently developed 3-step guide by HSI in collaboration with the Center of Peacebuilding (KOFF) allows for an analysis in a more systematic manner.

Strengthening resilience through learning and transformation

Nicole CLOT

Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation

There is no single answer of managing risks or adapting to the changing climate. A balanced portfolio of measures to enhance local collective action and create subsidiary structures at national and international scales as well as multiple hazard risk management approaches are essential to strengthen resilience. The IPCC Special Report Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation puts particular emphasis on resilience building and strongly emphasizes that learning is key for contributing to resilience. The objective of the input is to provide food for a discussion on how NGOs, practitioners and donors can enhance the effect of learning and transformation in humanitarian and development work. Based on the three case studies presented by HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Caritas Switzerland and Swiss Red Cross, a set of features had been identified contributing to resilience building. All case studies underline the importance of learning and transformation as a major source for resilience building. The special report emphasizes that a mix of actions ranging from incremental steps to transformational changes are crucial to reduce the adverse impacts of extreme events. While incremental steps aim to improve efficiency within existing technological, governance, and value systems, transformation involves alterations of fundamental attributes of a system such as regulatory or legislative regimes, biophysical or technological systems. Especially in countries where vulnerability is high and the adaptive capacity low, changes in extreme climate and weather events can make it difficult for systems to adapt sustainably without transformational changes. So the main questions are therefore what are the mechanisms which positively shape such a learning environment? What is necessary that a community envisages learning as key or even undergoes such a transformational change? How can we support these communities in this process or is it out of our reach?

Strengthening resilience at community level; linking up community DM with Government DM


Caritas Switzerland

In Bangladesh Caritas started 2003 in DRR, developing mixed Volunteers to become proactive in disaster preparedness and emergency response at village level. But there was no link with Government DM structures. These are organized top down to the Union level. A Union includes 9 Wards and about 30'000 people. Ward elect their representative into the Union Council including a Union Disaster Management Committee (UDMC) is responsible for support and distribution of funds. Mostly they fail to link with the communities.

2008 Ward Disaster Management Committees (WDMC) were formed, including the Volunteers, local leaders and the elected member of the UDMC which creates the so far missing link.

WDMCs are trained in assessing their hazards and natural risks, preparing, implementing and monitoring yearly activity plans. Being part of all those steps UDMC are well informed and Wards profit of UDMC motivation to make government resources available. The project does not finance infrastructure measures but coaches WDMCs if necessary. Wards develop own Funds for own DM activities not financed by the Government or other.

Result: Independent grass root DM structures get knowledge about DM and the link to use available Government resources.

Principles for resilience strengthening: (1) Build up self-reliant community DM structures before linking with Government DM. (2) Avoid infrastructure components subsidizing Governments responsibilities. (3) Involve local leaders and Government members in community DM structure

Integrating UDMC members into WDMC is effective and helps professionalizing and sensitizing UDMCs. It has been important to build up a sense of professionalism, responsibility and responsiveness at community level before linking with UDMC. The challenge remains to scale up, integrating WDMC into Government structures while keeping the local initiative and ownership at community level.

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