VIEWS FROM THE FRONTLINE
100,000 Perceptions of Risk – Global Recommendations Report
To move from identifying global trends to being able to provide practical recommendations, a consultation process was carried out involving 46 GNDR members from Asia, the Pacific, Africa and the Americas.
In addition, 10 key informant interviews were carried out including national CSOs involved in the Views from the Frontline project, academics, the UN, local government networks, and regional networks. This consultation linked directly our mid-term report on progress on the Sendai Framework from the perspective of GNDR members in the global south.
A number of practical recommendations are mapped out below, followed by key global policy messages that GNDR urges stakeholder to champion at all national, regional and global policy spaces across the Agenda 2030 frameworks; from the Sendai Framework, Paris Agreement, Adiss Ababba agreement, to the wider Sustainable Development Goals.
These recommendations have come directly from Views from the Frontline participants and are mapped out under each global conclusion.
1. Complex threats need integrated solutions
Strengthen local risk assessments
The current practice of developing risk maps are limited to mapping hazards, and rarely portray vulnerabilities and their interconnectedness, community exposure and community capacities. Localised risks assessments are essential. The process of the risk assessments should be strengthened with community participation and done regularly. All of this must be institutionalised, so that it does not become a one-off exercise that quickly becomes outdated. Government must prioritise allocating resources for this and using these local risk analyses to inform local development plans, policies and processes.
Local data is needed
There is still a need for local, disaggregated data. With disasters becoming more complex, the identification of those most at risk desegregated by age, sex, and persons with disabilities is crucial to respond to need at the individual level.
Focus on lives, livelihoods and assets
Include both social and economic analyses of communities at risk before proposing preparedness and risk reduction actions. Keep lives, livelihoods and assets at the forefront of disaster protection.
Leverage formal and informal engagement mechanisms
Non-structural measures to address threats often rely on communities’ abilities to gather together and identify solutions that they can carry out. Identify existing mechanisms for community engagement, whether these are formally established or informally created. Communities find different avenues to collaborate, some of which can be unique to particular contexts. For example, in some communities faith-based organisations are the most trusted and so their role becomes crucial in community engagement and development.
Increase research in collaboration with science and academia
Bring together scientific/technical knowledge and local resilience practices. Blended learning can support communities most at risk to develop innovative solutions to reducing the complexity of disasters.
Civic education, awareness-raising and associations
Programmes that support communities’ civic engagement play a key role in ensuring participation in decision-making spaces. These include awareness-raising activities, resilience education days, and incentives for fostering a culture of local associations.
Local leadership in programming
Various suggestions were made on this point. One is to adopt a ‘street-level upwards’ programme design for organisations working with partners on the ground: this includes planning for a period of co-creation of the project based on community priorities. Another recommendation was to make a conscious effort to level power relations by, for example, ensuring that consultation processes are structured so that everyone’s input holds the same weight.
Adopt an ‘adaptive management’ approach
This approach refers to project plans that include a degree of flexibility to be adapted as consultations with community groups evolve. From a donor perspective this translates into increased flexibility in the project and the level of budget detail required from funded organisations so that activities and budget lines can shift according to community priorities. Moreover, funding should be granted on the condition that projects are co-designed with communities most at risk.
Strengthen and leverage local skills and knowledge
Capacity strengthening activities are an important part of working with many community groups. They should be bespoke services with needs jointly identified and tailored to increasing leadership capacities. Local knowledge should be leveraged for risk assessments and planning by governments and CSOs alike. International actors should consider approaching capacity strengthening more as a way to identify complementarities between local and international partners, instead of a way to ‘pass on’ one’s own strengths to the other. This can ensure that local skills are effectively leveraged in national and international settings.
Adopt a human rights based approach to resilience
This idea rests on the understanding that communities most at risk have the power and capacity to fulfil their human rights and create change for themselves, their families and their communities. This can be done by planning for, and delivering, sensitisation activities on human rights, the rights-based approach and how to link risk to advocating for duty bearers to ensure these rights can be realised.
2. Include communities most at risk in decision making
Meaningfully listen to communities on the front line of risk
Disaster risk and resilience should be communicated from the lens of those affected by disasters: perspectives of communities at risk should be what CSOs bring to national and international fora. Similarly, empathetic communication is required to ensure that local voices are listened to and that their message is remembered. Live connections with communities on social media is a good method to communicate local resilience. Mobile journalism can also be used to share local voices (1). However, we must work to bridge the technology divide to ensure no-one is left behind.
Increase the decentralisation of decision making and institutionalise community engagement
Communities who face risks have knowledge and an in-depth understanding of the threats they face and the solutions to address them effectively. For effective risk management, communities must be included in the decision making processes.
Increase engagement and diversity among local representatives
A prominent role for local leaders (i.e. local government officials or other community leaders) is crucial, but how this can be achieved is still unclear. One recommendation is a more strategic engagement with mayors, with awareness-raising efforts directed at them as well as citizens, and efforts are made to understand local governments’ needs and areas of support. Again, institutional incentives are needed to achieve a wider representation of community groups in local government structures.
Plan for everyone’s active participation
It is essential that groups traditionally seen as more marginalised and vulnerable are involved in activities as active participants rather than as beneficiaries or potential victims of disasters. For example, disaster training and simulations should give an active role to persons with disabilities or elderly groups, rather than viewing them as passive recipients of help. Empowering local women leaders is essential to enabling this whole of society approach and meaningful inclusion of all. Local women leaders are often left out from decision making, yet have the capacity and knowledge required for a holistic understanding of the risk and needs in the community.
The right structures and services should be in place to facilitate meaningful engagement of these groups (e.g. provide correct accommodation, offer child support if needed, and account for specific needs). This is connected to the rights-based approach and a shift in mindset is needed at all levels, from national and international actors to local CSOs to enable this.
Address language and culture barriers
Individuals within a community might be part of different cultural groups, speak different languages, and experience different challenges. An initial mapping of community groups is a helpful tool to make participatory activities meaningful for all community members.
Equip CSOs to report local voices
Providing the space for CSOs to be able to share local voices is essential but it needs to come with providing tools and technology to support the gathering of community experiences. These could include platforms and networks for quick reporting (to allow CSOs to rapidly gather community experiences when it’s needed), or providing technological support such as internet and phone coverage in remote areas. Knowledge banks can be a useful tool to further equip CSOs in their role as reporters. Support for data collection and the development of case studies is another way to equip CSOs to report local realities.
Provide support for participation
Local CSOs and community groups who operate on a low budget often find themselves having to decide whether their time and money should be spent in addressing their community’s needs at present, or influence future plans and policies. Providing financial support to join consultations and engage in decision-making processes can be valuable for local organisations with time and budget constraints.
Give national and local CSOs a seat at the table
Local and national CSOs do not get the same opportunities to engage in decision-making processes as INGOs do. INGOs should support national and local CSOs in advocating for equal opportunities to join the decision-making table. At government level, biannual or quarterly dedicated moments could be organised, where grassroot and local organisations can bring their priorities up to the national level: forums and festivals can be ways to organise these exchanges.
Strengthen national multi-stakeholder platforms
National resilience platforms are a key feature of stakeholder engagement. They provide a space for exchanging views and priorities with policymakers. This model is also being used for advancing the Sustainable Development Goals at country level, as well as other international agreements (Prescott and Stibbe, 2020). Such platforms can also become a space for community members to share their own experiences. The platform also becomes a media opportunity where news outlets can easily identify interesting stories to report on.
3. Strengthen government accountability for good governance on risk management
Strengthen local democratic structures
Local democratic structures are the main entry point for community resilience. Processes that define the roles and responsibilities of elected officials and citizens, that provide mechanisms for monitoring and accountability, as well as platforms for citizen participation, are some of the core elements of these structures. Identifying gaps and working to strengthen local authorities is a first step to building local resilience. National laws should be reviewed with the aim of clearly identifying responsibilities for resilience building and the distribution of roles across levels and sectors. Resilience plans and standard operating procedures for risk management should be integrated in local government development plans.
Strengthen monitoring, accountability and transparency
These are key aspects of good governance and should be strengthened at the local level. Legal mechanisms for raising concerns and holding the government accountable should be established in all localities. This provides a space for communities, governments and local CSOs to jointly assess if plans and policies reflect the needs of people most at risk and effectively build their resilience. Public reviews of local and national plans should be held, to allow for community groups to feed back on the effectiveness of the actions planned by the government.
Empower community members to complement local government roles
Individuals and households can play an important part in strengthening resilience in addition to local government actions. There should be mechanisms for community members to individually understand their vulnerabilities and plan ways to cope with and adapt to the threats they might face. For example, local governments could encourage each household to develop their own specific guidance on disaster preparedness (e.g. defining specific actions households need to take when different levels of early warnings are issued). Supporting individual resilience is a strong component of creating community resilience.
Strengthen the role of CSOs as facilitators
Local CSOs are best placed to facilitate interaction between communities and their governments. If national targets for community engagement are included in resilience plans and translated into specific responsibilities at the local level, CSOs can support local authorities in ensuring these targets are reached. Moreover, CSOs can provide technical advice to support local governments where strong expertise on resilience building is lacking.
4. Close the information gap
Identify gaps in the flow of information
There may be many reasons why information doesn’t reach communities, and having a clear map of how information flows between national and local level is essential to identify possible gaps. In some contexts, actions could be needed to ensure that local leaders pass on information in a timely manner. In others, information may not flow effectively because of its potential negative consequences. For example, risk assessments on a locality may damage potential investments in that area: addressing the information gap in this context requires tailored actions to maintain the value of such areas.
Make information actionable and accessible
The importance of effective risk communication is widely accepted, but not enough is being done to address it. Risk information needs to be delivered in a way that allows communities to take action on it. An essential element of this is the availability of localised information on hazards, vulnerability, capacity and community resilience; often reports are given at a scale that is not useful for communities to take action. Strengthening impact-based forecasting approaches and forecast-based action is essential to ensure that information flows and action is taken. Online information portals, live risk monitoring platforms, and e-government initiatives should be supported – with the understanding that online should not become the only way of disseminating information (considering the digital divide that still exists around the world).
Leverage communications experts
Information should be designed in a way that influences the behaviours and attitudes of people. Communications expertise can be leveraged for disseminating information widely through mass media engagement, and development of awareness-raising material. Governments may consider partnering with telecommunications companies and local media to leverage their expertise. Local platforms should be integrated in communications plans (e.g. village bank meetings, church gatherings, community radios, etc).
Support local awareness-raising
This includes supporting local organisations to roll out awareness-raising sessions at community level on policies and plans for resilience, early warning systems, prevention measures, etc. CSOs can help identify trustworthy sources of information on various aspects of resilience.
5. Increase availability of finance for disaster risk reduction at the local level
Commit to devolve funding to local actors
Following the Grand Bargain commitments and other pledges to increase funding directly to local actors, more needs to be done to achieve them. International funding structures should be reviewed and compliance requirements simplified: this is an important step to encourage local actors to apply for funding. INGOs could take the role of guarantors with their local partners to address donors’ risk aversion. Funding regulations should be reviewed to ensure that grassroots organisations can easily receive financial support. National governments can devise mechanisms to devolve more budgets to local authorities. Specific grants could be designed for local governments wishing to implement resilience measures; resilience innovation funds to local governments can also be a way to devolve budgets downwards. Where development budgets are the responsibility of local authorities, increased awareness of risk-informed approaches to development could help integrate resilience at the local level. Businesses’ corporate social responsibility contributions could be channelled towards funding for local resilience. INGOs should strengthen local organisations’ capacities for project design, fundraising and implementation, with the aim of fully equipping communities to roll out their own resilience activities.
Identify innovative approaches to local funding
It is important to identify transferable lessons learned on innovation in local funding that can be replicated. These include building funding mechanisms and income-generating activities into local projects. Saving groups, micro-grants and micro-insurance are just some examples of this. Resilience building loans or cooperative-managed grants can also be effective tools to increase local funding. The design of bankable projects (Ellis and Pillay, 2017) is another approach to generate funding locally. Seed funding for piloting bankable projects and other income-generating programmes can be used to prove their validity and cost-effectiveness.
Champion collaboration over competition
Competition among local groups and CSOs is often a natural result of scarce resources available at the local level. However, collaboration is a success factor in accessing resources, especially for local organisations and essential for community level resilience. Championing collaboration over competition should be a priority for CSOs at all levels: CSOs should outline the benefits of collaboration and define a set of principles to foster collaboration, level power dynamics and leverage local leadership.
6. Make sure all development is risk-informed
Diversify your champions of resilience
Risk-informed development needs to be cross-sectoral by nature, and hence it requires identifying champions from sectors we may interact with less frequently. These should be individuals who are supportive of your policy asks or activities, but also individuals who can provide support to your actions – including financial support. Funding from unconventional sectors can result in increased links and connections within that sphere of work. Moreover, the cross-cutting nature of resilience allows for it to be integrated in different sectors’ agendas: CSOs should carry out an analysis of government priorities and identify areas where the case for integrating resilience can be made.
Encourage risk and impact assessments in development plans
Resilience practitioners can provide methodologies and models to embed risk and impact assessments in all development activities. Several countries already have structures for environmental impact assessments of development projects: these assessments should be strengthened and complemented with a risk component, to measure the risk a project is likely to exacerbate or create in a community (2). International actors should include disaster risk evaluations in their development assistance and make it a mandatory field in project proposals.
A full understanding of risk-informed development is still lacking in many areas. There needs to be more awareness across sectors and departments of the importance of mainstreaming risk as a cross-cutting issue. Increased investment in public policy research on risk-informed development should be encouraged. This should be connected with more effective tools for risk analysis and participatory development planning at the local level, where there should be a clear understanding of all sectors and their contribution to disaster risk.
Leverage windows of opportunity
When resilience is not a top priority, it is important to identify potential windows of opportunity and how to leverage them. One example is the current Covid-19 pandemic and the opportunity it offers for some countries to build back better: how can recovery from this disaster be a conduit for increased resilience and risk-informed development overall?
7. Prioritise nature-based solutions
Conduct policy reviews
Increased global attention on ecosystem-based approaches to resilience provides an opportunity to review older national policies and identify areas where effectiveness can be increased with nature-based solutions. Advisory boards of scientists, professionals and community members can support the identification of effective nature-based solutions in each sector (3). Embedding environmental protection in national legislation is an effective tool for increasing awareness of the danger of environmental degradation. Financial institutions could create mechanisms (eg. bonds, incentives) to support the uptake of nature conservation by individuals and businesses.
Distribute responsibilities at all levels
The benefits of utilising ecosystem-based approaches for resilience can be seen at both national and local levels. It is therefore important that responsibilities for this are shared between national and local governments, and that communities have the ability to participate in environmental management activities in their locality, for example by joining nature conservation groups that act and advocate for environmental protection. The involvement of community members could also be encouraged through volunteering opportunities.
Communicate the benefits of nature-based solutions
Use media channels, art, or community discussions to highlight environmental conservation activities in your area, and showcase the biodiversity that exists in your region and how it may be in danger of being lost. Nature-based solutions education can also be integrated into school curriculums and youth groups’ initiatives (4).
- For a definition of mobile journalism, see Podger, C. 2021
- Strategic Environmental Assessments could provide a model to replicate in this area (see Rodriguez Fortun, P. 2020)
- PEDRR is a good source for knowledge and information on nature-based solutions
- One example of this is the Green Schoolyard Movement (Green Schoolyards America, 2015)
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Our Views from the Frontline project is funded by the European Union (EU). Content related to this project on our website was made possible by the support of the EU. All content is the sole responsibility of GNDR and does not necessarily reflect the views of the EU.