Dhaka - There was a resounding call today for greater inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in disaster risk management worldwide if the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is to deliver on its promise of being people-centred.
Participants at the Dhaka Conference on Disability and Disaster Risk Management in Bangladesh, adopted a strong declaration calling for inclusion and leadership of persons with disabilities within all disaster risk management programmes.
At least two countries per region should have representation of persons with disabilities on all disaster management committees by the end of 2017, given their higher rates of mortality in disaster events.
There was also a call for the development of action plans that “reduce and remove barriers that limit leadership and the participation of persons with disabilities in decision making by the end of 2017.”
UNISDR Head of Advocacy, Mr. Jerry Velasquez, said: “This was a very important gathering to discuss implementation of the Sendai Framework which was adopted earlier this year. If we are to make further progress in reducing mortality and economic losses from disasters then we need to listen to those who are most vulnerable to disaster events and we need to reach the targets set out in the Dhaka Declaration.”
The preamble to the Dhaka Declaration references the 2013 UNISDR global survey, “Living with Disability and Disasters” which found that more than 85% of respondents had not participated in community-based disaster risk management though more than half said they were keen to participate.
There was a strong turnout from 22 countries for this first-ever event to discussion implementation of the Sendai Framework for Persons with Disabilities who played an active role throughout the three year consultation process which preceded its adoption. There were 472 participants including 128 participants with disabilities.
Participants supported the collection of disaggregated data by sex, age and disability; and early warning systems accessible to all. They also backed calls for the Dhaka Declaration to be considered in all action plans for the implementation of the Sendai Framework and for a conference in two years to review progress on the Declaration’s action points.
Ms. Saima Hossain, Chairperson of the Bangladesh National Advisory Committee on Autism, said: "Bangladesh is successfully leading at many global forums, on different issues for the well-being of humankind. I hope Bangladesh will continue to make similar efforts to deal with the physically and mentally challenged people for protecting their lives during disaster periods.”
Another participant, Ms. Shourove Ansari, from the Bangladeshi NGO Bancute Shekha Jessoke, said: "I'm inspired to see experts with disabilities on this topic, but it seems none yet from Bangladesh. I would like to become engaged now and become an expert and help others. I am now willing to volunteer to join district committees for disaster management here in Bangladesh."
The renowned advocate, Mr. Carlos Kaiser, who won the 2014 Risk Award and who leads the Chilean NGO Inclusiva, said: "For so long that we civil society have done this work. It is encouraging that now Governments are taking leadership on the issue disaster risk reduction and disabilities. It is about time as I believe they can inspire others and set a benchmark for cooperation."
In a message to the Conference, the head of UNISDR, Ms. Margareta Wahlström, said: “The Government of Bangladesh and the Centre for Disability in Development are to be congratulated for taking the initiative to organize this three day conference which will identify concrete actions to roll out the Sendai Framework and help to ensure that disability-inclusive disaster risk management becomes standard practice.”
The Conference ran from December 12-14 and was organized by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, the Ministry for Social Welfare, the Centre for Disability in Development. Major sponsors included CBM, Handicap International and Sightsavers. The Conference Secretariat was provided by the National Forum of Organizations Working with the Disabled.