Overview of the SEI Initiative on Transforming Development and Disaster Risk

The goal of the TDDR Initiative is to improve understanding of how risks are created and how they accumulate. Analysis builds on the recognition that disaster risk and development are closely linked: the people and assets exposed to risk as well as the extent of their susceptibility and capacity are largely determined by developmental processes.

Risk is created inside development i.e. development trajectories driven by the goal of economic growth contribute to the increasing disaster risks we see today.  In its first phase (2015-2016), TDDR began to transform this accepted understanding by first unpacking this ‘locked-in’ relationship and then developing conceptual and theoretical principles and pathways for transforming it.

Using these principles and pathways, the present phase 2 (2017–2018) of the TDDR Initiative aims to co-create the knowledge and tools required to reduce disaster risk among poor and at-risk communities in Southeast Asia and East Africa. The overarching question that Phase 2 will address is: How can transformation in development and disaster risk be achieved for the betterment of the poor and at-risk communities and groups?

The initiative’s research and analysis focuses on three key areas of work: 1) Understanding the trade-offs between development and disaster risk; 2) Addressing issues of social inequity and injustice in development processes through “equitable resilience”; and 3) Transforming DRR and development governance and institutions through inclusion, collaboration, social learning and system innovation.

The insights from these three areas of work in the first phase are being used to develop an integrated conceptual framework for understanding the relationship between development and disaster risk, and how this currently unsustainable relationship can be transformed to reduce risk and achieve more equitable, resilient and sustainable DRR and development outcomes.

The insights show that transformation is key to moving away from current development patterns that increase or create risks and inequalities to forms of development that are equitable and resilient.

Transformative pathways must include consideration of risk trade-offs in development decisions, and creating enabling conditions for approaches that strengthen the resilience of people at risk by promoting social equity and justice. Transformative governance is the vehicle through which these goals can be achieved.

Development can exacerbate disaster risks, both in the long run by increasing greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change, and in the near term by removing natural storm-surge protection barriers such as mangrove stands in favour of aquaculture farms or beachfront properties.

sei drr 350x175 nepal earthquake
Kathmandu earthquake, 2015. Photo: Omio Asad via Wikimedia Commons (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Scientific research coupled with policy engagement

TDDR contributes to breaking down existing barriers in research, policy and practice between the DRR, adaptation, development, and humanitarian communities; helps to clarify the connections between different global policy arenas (SDGs, Sendai Framework, Paris Agreement, Humanitarian Agenda); and contributes to shaping a research agenda that will ensure successful outcomes of the Sendai Framework implementation and refocusing risk reduction efforts to support those most vulnerable to disaster risks.

TDDR continues to collaborate with several key institutions and governance processes to achieve long-term impacts in policy. At the global level, TDDR has invested considerable effort to raise our profile and to build a collaborative partnership with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR), both of which are important actors in driving research and policy in DRR and sustainable development.

Recently, the IRDR Scientific Committee (SC) unanimously approved the proposal by SEI to establish an IRDR International Centre of Excellence (ICoE) on Transforming Development and Disaster Risk (ICoE-TDDR).

The increasing importance and role of science-based decision-making is alo strongly emphasized in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR). In response to that, the UNISDR Asia Pacific Office has formed the Asia Science Technology and Academia Advisory Group (ASTAAG) in May 2015.  ASTAAG comprises selected disaster experts from Asian countries: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Philippines. The Group provides policy advisory services to governments and other stakeholders on appropriate technology and its application in decision making.

TDDR has established strong relationships at the regional level. For example, in Southeast Asia with the ASEAN Secretariat in Southeast Asia in order to provide scientific support to the work programme of the Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER). In Eastern Africa, TDDR is engaging with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Secretariat to achieve endorsement and formal recognition as a formal research and dialogue partner. These relationships will offer strategic opportunities for TDDR to pursue a transformative agenda in development and disaster risk.

Download a 4-page overview of the Initiative (PDF, 3MB)

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Read more about the “Reducing Disaster Risk Cluster” work in SEI Asia