With so many unprecedented risks, how can multilateral programs plan ahead?
- Governments have been re-orienting disaster-risk management amid an onslaught of disease and severe weather events.
- Communities have moved away from a mostly reactive, post-disaster posture to an holistic approach that encompasses the multisectoral nature of resilience-building.
- It is the 10th anniversary of the Africa Caribbean Pacific–European Union Natural Disaster Risk Reduction (ACP-EU NDRR) Program, which was launched to help countries improve their abilities to prepare for, mitigate, and respond to natural hazards.
In an era of increasingly destructive natural hazards, aggravated climate change, and fast-spreading diseases, how can countries possibly plan for the future—while knowing that development gains are at constant risk of being swept away by a violent tropical storm, a devastating earthquake, the onset of a drought, or the emergence of an epidemic? Everything short of a transformative approach to resilience seems inadequate.
Governments are seeking ways to revamp disaster-risk management amid this onslaught of disease and severe weather events. One of their partners in this exercise, the Africa Caribbean Pacific – European Union Natural Disaster Risk Reduction (ACP-EU NDRR) program, was launched in 2011, when countries facing recurrent, catastrophic risks—particularly those across Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific—saw the need to drastically improve their abilities to prepare for, mitigate, and respond to natural hazards. This partnership among the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (OACPS), the European Union (EU), the World Bank, and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) has become the authoritative source of information for countries on the path toward durable resilience.
Reflecting on a fast-growth, action-packed decade
The September 2021 Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Focus Days served as an excellent opportunity for disaster risk practitioners of all nationalities and backgrounds from across ACP countries to reflect on what this partnership among the OACPS, EU, World Bank, and GFDRR has contributed to the global DRM community during its 10 years of operations. How, these practitioners asked, can we sustain the partnership’s achievements in integrating resilience to disasters and climate change into national policies?
The ACP-EU NDRR Program has left an undeniable legacy: 149 projects spanning 70 countries; 870 events in which over 36,400 people received training in DRM and post-disaster assessments; nearly 570 DRM-related knowledge products; and more than $4.3 billion in additional investments leveraged by the World Bank and other partners. A closer look at the activities behind these numbers shows that the Program will leave a lasting impact in the structural changes which governments and regional organizations have made in their approach to DRM.
From disaster response to resilience-building
The decade in which the Program was implemented saw a paradigm shift in the way African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries handle disaster management. They have moved away from a mostly reactive, post-disaster posture to an approach that encompasses the truly holistic, multisectoral nature of building resilience. Dedicated national disaster-management agencies have received increased investments and access to critical resources and financial backing, while institutions in sectors as diverse as agriculture, education, transportation, infrastructure, and gender have begun to fully integrate the principles of DRM into their operations.
The path to sustainable and inclusive risk resilience requires an all-of-society approach that solicits expert contributions not just from governments but also from civil society, the private sector, and academia. The Program has prioritized the initiatives and ideas of grassroots contributors, such as student researchers from universities and local communities, to ensure that the voices of those most affected by disaster risks are built into more effective DRM plans. The ways in which gender considerations are now included in DRM decision-making, as women and girls advocate for disaster responses that take their specific needs into account, is cementing the democratization of DRM.
In the decade since it was launched, the Program has opened the way for innovative solutions to the fast-evolving challenges confronting DRM practitioners. Through GFDRR’s Open Cities initiative, for example, the Program has helped harness technology to revolutionize the way in which data on natural hazards is collected, analyzed, and shared among stakeholders.
The Program has also made standard the use of affordable, accessible technology to increase the quantity and quality of actionable disaster-risk data. Ordinary citizens equipped with smartphones or laptops can access new data sources and participate in DRM activities, such as community-mapping. These advances have widespread, practical application in risk assessments, have unlocked a better understanding of urbanization, coastal erosion, desertification, and flood levels at a granular level—and have aided in reducing knowledge gaps and designing DRM strategies that take fast-evolving trends into account.
Reflecting on ways to continue this kind of progress, participants in the DRM Focus Days agreed that investment in DRM and Climate Change Adaptation must continue to sustain the Program’s achievements. Support for countries and communities as they prepare for disaster events of increasing frequency and complexity is essential. As the OACPS, EU, World Bank, and GFDRR have prioritized disaster risk and climate action and continue to mainstream DRM and adaptation at all levels of development planning, the stage is set for this partnership to continue advancing such policies and activities.