Photo Credit: UN Women Asia and the Pacific

The year 2020 marks the fifth anniversary of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030). This year also marks the deadline to achieve Target E of the Sendai Framework, which aims to “substantially increase the number of countries with national and local DRR strategies”. Because one of the guiding principles of the Sendai Framework is to include gender, age, disability and cultural perspectives in all disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies and practices, the report assesses how countries in Asia and the Pacific integrated the needs of women and people with disabilities into their national DRR strategies.

This report, by SEI and UN Women, reviewed the national DRR strategies and action plans of 26 countries across Asia and the Pacific, assessing how countries have translated their international commitments to gender-responsiveness and disability inclusion and are implementing them on the ground.

Three barriers to inclusive DRR

The review found promising results in terms of gender and disability being increasingly discussed in national DRR strategies. At the same time, more needs to be done to address the root causes of vulnerability that transform hazards into risks and the review aims to provide a baseline for monitoring national and regional progress.

The report found three key barriers that governments in the Asia and the Pacific region need to overcome to deliver on their commitments:

1. Inadequate understanding of the root causes of vulnerability hinders achieving inclusive DRR

While the Sendai Framework encourages the inclusion and participation of women and people with disabilities in disaster planning and management, most of the countries in the region keep framing them as “passive agents of aid”, rather than as capable agents of change. Indeed, deeply rooted cultural beliefs and social practices are major barriers to ensuring the meaningful participation of marginalized groups in DRR. One of the most common approaches to inclusive DRR in the region is to collect data disaggregated by sex, age and disability. While quantitative data is crucial for monitoring progress, too much focus on it can lead to assumptions about women and people with disabilities as being homogenous groups, which is reflected into DRR policies, instead of recognizing how different identities intersect to create unique privileges and discriminations in the context of disasters. To better understand the root causes of vulnerability, but also to identify entry-points for transforming social and gender norms through DRR, the report recommends using more qualitative data analysis to inform policy and action.

2. Lack of stable funding for inclusive DRR efforts

Many disaster management agencies across countries lack resources to invest in building their capacity to better understand and address the vulnerability of women and people with disabilities. Moreover, since initiatives for inclusive DRR are often pushed by external development partners, the efforts tend to end along with the respective project cycles. Therefore, securing resources through gender-responsive budgeting and mandating dedicated institutions to mainstream gender and social inclusion are crucial, not only in DRR but also across sectors to tackle the root causes of vulnerability.

3. Lack of coordination between stakeholders and duplication of efforts leads to inefficiency

There is a lack of effective collaboration between the various state and non-state actors involved in inclusive DRR. Government agencies, NGOs, CSOs and grassroots organizations have their own agenda, and often their own monitoring systems, creating overlapping initiatives and duplication of databases. This tendency to work in silos threatens the effective implementation of inclusive DRR, while the absence of centralized and standardized databases makes it difficult to monitor progress at the national level. The report recommends that governments institutionalize and facilitate multi-stakeholder cooperation at all levels, and set up national monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Boosting resources for local organizations that are more effective at capturing the complex realities on the ground can ensure community ownership of DRR initiatives.

The path ahead

The Sendai Framework contributed to mainstreaming gender and social issues across national DRR strategies in the region. However, the promising commitments found in national policies are often compounded by knowledge gaps of what causes vulnerability to disasters, as well as practical challenges to fund and implement their strategies. This study establishes a baseline of the situation in Asia and the Pacific in 2020, and provides recommendations to address the barriers to inclusive DRR. It is now the responsibility of policymakers to use them and ensure that DRR leaves no one behind.