Proactivity and collaboration between local leaders and community members, particularly women, along with accountability and political and community buy-in: these were the factors identified by local leaders from across Asia as essential for effective community-based disaster risk management (CBDRM), when they met for a local leadership forum in Kathmandu, Nepal on 2 December.
Organised by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) and taking the format of a local leadership forum, the leaders shared their stories on how they’ve engaged in successful CBDRM initiatives. The importance of social and economic empowerment of women and localisation, along with the need for accountability mechanisms and increased political commitment to work with local communities for effective DRR were among the issues identified as particularly important for CBDRM to be effective in local communities.
Presentation of these local success stories paved the way to a more open discussion among participants, looking at the need to address current and future risks, along with the need to help communities understand and manage their own risks.
Participants identified challenges surrounding a historical lack of receptiveness to initiatives due to lack of resources and understanding, and the role of local leaders in providing support and raising awareness to increase local ownership of CBDRM activities.
Additional challenges included lack of time and access to trainings for women, along with a lack of political commitment and will. This is often due to preferences for response-based DRR as you see results more quickly and local leaders tend to want more visible results that will give them political momentum. Thus, there is often limited political space for more proactive DRM at the local level.
The conversation then took a turn towards the importance of risk assessments and the various ways they are conducted in different contexts.
For example, as was the case in the story from India, it’s all locally-led, where community members band together and report issues to the local authority when they come across them, so that immediate action can be taken.
In contrast, the Nepali participants explained how they used different methods such as GNDR’s Frontline assessment to identify the main disaster risks, followed by community meetings and subsequent walks through the community to verify their findings.
Leaders from the Phillipines shared how they use participatory methods to identify at-risk areas, apply science and technology to develop risk maps and then feed back to the communities, teaching them how to identify their risks and collect data to enhance localisation.
Regardless of the specific risk assessment methods, however, participants agreed that for the assessments to be effective, there is a need for both community perspective and scientific knowledge to be considered.
The forum concluded with the launch of GNDR’s Cookbook on Institutionalising Sustainable CBDRM. Mr. Surya Shrestha, Executive Director of the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) Nepal shared his thoughts on the cookbook and concluded that it is “short, sweet, tasty, simple and straightforward”, encouraging everyone to get their hands on a copy.
All in all, despite some logistical challenges, the forum was a success. The local leaders selected felt honoured by the opportunity to share their stories, and the audience participants found the stories very useful in understanding how CBDRM can be effective in different contexts.
Looking forward, it is essential that we continue to support local leaders in engaging in CBDRM and help them find platforms in which they can connect and share success stories and challenges. This will help pave the way towards institutionalising sustainable CBDRM on a larger scale.