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  • DRR Voices blog: 6 Jun 2017 Aaron Clark-Ginsberg
    Postdoctoral Researcher at Stanford University
    Stanford University

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Nine principles for incorporating DRR into community resilience

Blog Post  from

Aaron Clark-Ginsberg

Postdoctoral Researcher at Stanford University
Stanford University

Aaron Clark-Ginsberg, PhD, is a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University. Aaron’s research focuses on the governance dimensions of disaster risk reduction and resilience. From 2012 to 2014 he worked as Concern Worldwide’s Disaster Risk Reduction Documentation Officer, where he traveled to 10 countries to review and document Concern's DRR programmes. He is currently examining the policy options for improving critical infrastructure resilience in the United States.

As an international humanitarian organisation committed to eradicating extreme poverty, disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience are both central to Concern Worldwide’s work.  Concern has developed nine principles for incorporating DRR into community resilience.  They are derived from results of a two-year research project examining Concern’s DRR work in 10 different countries, which I conducted with Concern while a PhD student at the University College Dublin Center for Humanitarian Action. The principles are designed to help guide organisations seeking to employ DRR to build community resilience.


1. Systematically undertake risk analysis, including analysis of future uncertainty and extreme conditions

A robust risk analysis is the fundamental starting point in designing any community resilience program.  It is important to analyze all the hazards that might impact the extreme poor, take account for potential uncertainty and extreme conditions, and conduct analysis in ways ensures that marginalized voices listened to.


2. Ensure programming is coordinated with others

Building resilience is too big a task for any one agency to tackle alone.  Organisations need to coordinate with each other to help identify resilience gaps, avoid duplication, and share lessons learned. Coordination must occur across sectoral areas and levels.


3. Reducing the scale, intensity and frequency of hazards

Some hazards can be significantly reduced in scale, intensity, and frequency, often through ecosystem approaches and engineering. Hazards that are almost entirely natural in origin or those that occur at a large scale are largely immune to being influenced by a single organisation directly, although it is still possible to reduce their impacts.


4. Reduce vulnerability and the causes of vulnerability

Hazards become disasters because of vulnerability, and it is always possible to reduce vulnerability. Reducing vulnerability often requires multiple integrated interventions considered outside of ‘traditional’ DRR activities – for example, combining engineered structures to reduce hazard exposure, natural resource management to improve ecosystems, livelihoods interventions for improved access to assets, and saving circles for something to fall back on.


5. Address drivers of inequality

Inequality is a causal factor of vulnerability, and addressing inequality core to building community resilience. Representing marginalised groups within DRR committees, making sure the needs of the marginalised are addressed, improving access to government services for all, and advocating at all levels for the marginalised are ways to address the causes of inequality.


6. Build coping and recovering capacity

Coping and recovering capacity allows people to ‘live through’ and rapidly recover from a disaster. Safety nets, contingencies, and social protection act as mechanisms to stop people falling into crisis without resorting to harmful behaviour or negative coping strategies.  Vulnerable people should be linked to community and national safety nets to improve coping and recovery.


7. Build and Enhance Response Capacity

There will always be hazards whose impacts overwhelm community resources and require an emergency response. Governments, humanitarian agencies, communities, and the private sector must be prepared to respond to emergencies in a timely and effective manner. Emergency responses can also contribute to the reduction of future vulnerabilities by ensuring that people do not slide further into extreme poverty because of disasters. 


8. Build Institutions for Efficient and Equitable Governance

Strengthening institutions is a major component of DRR and community resilience. This involves directly and indirectly providing institutional bodies with greater economic, physical, political, or social resources to implement DRR.  Institutions can be formal - like the government - or informal - like tribal organisations. The degree of buy in for DRR can influence the effectiveness of DRR interventions, so institutionalizing DRR often requires high levels of advocacy.


9. Ensure Sustainability by Innovation, Learning and Exit Strategies

Developing an exit strategy from the outset helps ensure that programmes focus on supporting institutions to become fit for purpose in taking on the challenge of resilience building.  The earlier an exit is planned for the sooner appropriate procedures can be put in place for handing over responsibilities to the right institutions, which have the capacity for quality continuation of the work.  Fostering a culture of innovation and learning is equally critical. Social, political, economic, and environmental contexts change, and institutions and the people that they represent need to keep up with those changes, address the unexpected, and learn from experiences.


Further reading:

Aaron Clark-Ginsberg and Dom Hunt, 2015 “Disaster Risk Reduction for Community Resilience: A synthesis form more than a decade of disaster risk reduction programming”

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  • Publication date 06 Jun 2017

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