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A personal report on the Swiss Confederation Humanitarian Aid Annual Conference

Experiences in disaster risk reduction and the challenges it poses were presented as part of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid and SHA annual conference. © SDC Experiences in disaster risk reduction and the challenges it poses were presented as part of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid and SHA annual conference. © SDC
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Marcus Oxley, GNDR Executive Director reports on his attendance to the Swiss Confederation Humanitarian Aid Annual Conference held in Bern on Friday 27 March, under the topic "Understanding Risk – Reducing Disasters". Read on his participation as a panellist in the session called "After Sendai; from policy to action" where Marcus acknowledged the positive developments of the recently signed Sendai Framework, but also reminded those attending this session of the critical role of civil society into turning policy aspirations into local action, which encouragingly obtained general acceptance from the audience.

Last Friday I was invited to join a panel discussion at the annual conference for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The conference was held the week after the WCDRR 2015 in Sendai and the theme for this annual event was appropriately entitled “Understanding risks – reducing disasters”.  The event is a high profile event in the Swiss development calendar with over 700 people attending the conference and invited speakers from senior level political and SDC representatives. Disaster risk reduction is a priority for the Swiss government and receives substantial funding from the Humanitarian Unit of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Importantly, from a global civil society perspective, the SDC has been a strategic partner of GNDR for the last two years and is currently in the process on renewing its partnership with us to support the outworking of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030

The panel I was invited to join was called “After Sendai; from policy to action” and included the Head of UNISDR Margareta Wahlström; Sepp Hess Office for the Environment; Yuka Greiler Climate Change Programme (SDC) and myself.  The session was facilitated by Beat von Daniken, Director of the Swiss Red Cross and began with reflections on the Sendai framework. These started with Margareta who, not surprisingly, provided an upbeat perspective of the new framework. In particular, she highlighted some of the positive new developments within the framework including: the seven global targets; the inclusion of non-state stakeholders particularly civil society; recognition to the important contribution of high-risk groups including women, children and youth, persons with disabilities, older persons, indigenous people and migrants; a stronger focus on health and the strategic emphasis on the recovery phase. I personally acknowledged too these positive developments, together with the strong interest in the Sendai Framework from a broad cross-section of society, with an envisaged 187 of the 193 UN countries adopting the Framework.  I also mentioned that the politicisation of the DRR framework with the climate and development agendas, whilst making the Sendai negotiations more difficult, was actually a positive development given that disasters, climate change and sustainable development are fundamentally interrelated and the different frameworks need to be so.

The second round of discussions outlined next steps in moving the Framework from policy to practice. I highlighted some of the lessons learnt from the implementation of the HFA and the role of civil society, particularly highlighting the need for strong accountability and transparency; the need to invest in strengthening local risk governance capabilities; the importance of shared learning and connecting with other frameworks in order to address underlying risk drivers;  and the need to convert the rather vague non-specific global targets into specific time-bound national and local targets and indicators.  Encouragingly, there was a general acceptance across the panel of the critical role of civil society into turning policy aspirations into local action. I think in the post-Sendai period we now need to use the recognition that civil society has been given within the Sendai Framework to strengthen collaboration and partnerships and raise additional resources for local implementation. We also now need to take the experiences and insights of the Sendai conference into the forthcoming negotiations for the sustainable development and climate change agendas.

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