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John Scott

President

Center for Public Service Communications (CPSC) Expertise:  Experience in providing guidance and expertise to individuals, communities and public sector organizations in the specialized field of applying telecommunications and information technologies to reduce health disparities, to improve health services to underserved and disenfranchised individuals and communities and to improve the collection and sharing of scientific, technical and community knowledge to reduce human vulnerability to natural hazards.

Mr. Scott founded (1990) and directs the Center for Public Service Communications whose mission is to provide guidance and expertise to individuals, communities and public sector organizations in the specialized field of applying telecommunications and information technologies to reduce health disparities, to improve health services to underserved and disenfranchised individuals and communities and to improve the collection and sharing of scientific, technical and community knowledge to reduce human vulnerability to natural hazards. Mr. Scott’s International working experience includes the Americas, Africa, South East Asia, the Caribbean, China, Western Europe, the Pacific and the former Soviet Union. Currently, Mr. Scott is coordinating initiatives designed to engage indigenous peoples in disaster risk reduction in collaboration with the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction (ISDR), the Pan American Health Organization and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. He was a principal co-author of the disaster risk reduction handbook for mayors on behalf of ISDR and its “Making Cities Resilient” campaign. He is executive director of the Refugee Health Information Network (RHIN) and is a member of the National Advisory Committee on Cultural Competency for Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Response (of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health). He has been a senior advisor on early warning and disaster health information to institutions including the Pan American Health Organization/WHO, ISDR, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM). From 2001-2005 Mr. Scott established and was executive director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President's Task Force on Health Information and Technology. He was also co-founder, in 1993, of the U.S. Congressional Steering Committee on Telehealth and Health Information Technology and coordinated that group for ten years. Mr. Scott is Tlingit, and an enrolled member of the Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska.

Engaging Indigenous Peoples in Disaster Risk Reduction

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QQuestion by Mrs Paula Marulanda

Dear John, my question is: How to identify usefulness of indigenous knowledge for risk reduction and how correctly apply them in risk management plans and programs?

Mrs Paula Marulanda Intern | UNISDR
France

APosted on 12 Dec 2014

Good Morning Ms. Marulanda.
I'll respond directly to your question in a minute.  First, a comment on the implication (suggested in your question) that "indigenous knowledge" is inherently useful to DRR.  "Indigenous Knowledge" in my opinion is an overused term signifying little because it is most frequently not defined.  It is a catch phrase -- a commonly used shorthand, a placeholder in papers and reports when more useful descriptive information is not available. By comparison, for example, what would you suspect is meant if someone were to refer to "non-Indigenous Knowledge".  Certainly there are approaches to living, learned over generations, and respectful of Nature that lead to risk reduction.  Those should be identified and defined and shared.  I suspect that's what you had in mind with your question. 
The direct answer to your question is rather simple, as was the answer to Mr. Zervas' question yesterday.
The way to identify usefulness of indigenous knowledge to DRR is to engage indigenous peoples in a discussion about the natural and man-made challenges and learn from them what strategies their communities have developed to reduce the risk of those challenges affecting them.  
This may seem an over simplification, but it is no more complex a process than identifying usefulness of any other knowledge.  Why it may seem challenging, is that cultural behavior of indigenous communities is frequently different from the non-indigenous majority communities with which there is more familiarity.  Language and culture, as I mentioned in my earlier comment, are challenges that the international community of non-indigenous DRR professionals must overcome in order to better understand their indigenous brothers and sisters.
When Indigenous community leaders are empowered to be part of the national and international discourse, and can share their experiences first hand, then they can learn from others and others might be better able to apply lessons learned from their Indigenous counterparts.  This is the manner in which, as your question asked, knowledge can be applied to risk management plans and programs.
Thank you for your question.
John
   


QQuestion by Mr Dave Paul Zervaas

Dear John, how would you go about trying to bring more of the generally more holistic thinking and respect for nature that is the cultural heritage of many indigenous societies, into the mainstream positivistic thinking (in DRR) ?
Thanks

Mr Dave Paul Zervaas Programme Officer | UNISDR
Switzerland

APosted on 11 Dec 2014

Dear Dave.

You asked, “how would you go about trying to bring more of the generally more holistic thinking and respect for nature that is the cultural heritage of many indigenous societies, into the mainstream positivistic thinking (in DRR)?”

The direct answer to your question is quite a simple one: The way I would bring the Native thinking into the mainstream is to being the Native thinkers into the mainstream to share their thoughts.  There are too few opportunities for this to happen.  The cost of travel is expensive, the passport/visa challenges are great and language and culture can be challenges too (for many communities the concepts of “vulnerability” and “risk” are not easily transferrable).  This last issue is an important one that is broader in scope than Indigenous peoples alone.  DRR “discussions”, both real-time synchronous conferences and meetings, as well as virtual, asynchronous fora, such as this Ask An Expert discussion, as well as printed materials such as “best practices”, case studies, research, etc, are not frequently available in culturally and linguistically appropriate modalities that would make possible and facilitate interaction with and among Indigenous communities.

And keep in mind, that while Native (“holistic”, as you put it) thinking would contribute to the broader “positivistic thinking” about DRR it does not, in and of itself, reduce risk.  Though risk may be reduced with an enhanced awareness of and respect for nature, learning about and establishing and communicating DRR strategies is no less an challenge in Indigenous communities that respect nature than it is in any other community.

Thanks for your question.

John

THIS SESSION CONCLUDED ON

14
December
2014