Policy and Practice


Disaster Risk Reduction

“Practical Action aims to reduce the risk of disasters for marginalised groups and communities by mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) into all development processes”


Key Facts

  • In 2011, 206 million people were affected by disasters, with estimated losses in excess of $366 billion.
  • Under current trends by 2015, over 375 million people per year are likely to be affected by climate-related disasters.
  • Every $1 spent on disaster risk reduction saves at least $7 in post-disaster relief and recovery.

Agenda for Change 

Disaster Risk Reduction is founded on the belief that whilst natural hazards and related risk are inevitable, death and suffering from them is not. Integrating risk reduction into development is crucial for achieving sustainable social and economic development that delivers long lasting solutions for poor communities around the world.

Disasters deprive people of their livelihoods, they damage infrastructure, reduce productivity and generate social tensions, they consume resources that would otherwise be directed towards productive activities, and they can wipe out years of development in seconds.

flood disaster risk reduction Bangladesh
Poor people are on the front line of climate
change in Bangladesh

And yet most disaster–related assistance arrives too late, when livelihoods and lives have already been swept away. There is an urgent need to change this trend and to invest in the reduction of risk before disaster strikes. In doing so, countries and communities can be better prepared to cope, allowing them to bounce back faster.

Our DRR programmes do just that. Practical Action works to help the most vulnerable groups, including poor and marginalised people and indigenous communities, prepare for hazards; so they can survive and maintain their livelihoods, get their lives back on track as quickly as possible and plan for a better future.

Crucial to the success of this approach is to not work in communities in isolation, but taking a systemic approach to risk reduction and bringing in the other partners who co-create the risk environment especially the private sector, local and national governments. Only with a holistic approach will DRR be integrated into existing development projects and future programmes.


Goals for Policy and Practice

Our policy influencing approach to DRR is based on research and operational experience gained over many years in South Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Central to our DRR work is involving people in decision making, through the use of participatory approaches and technological innovation that is in line with the principle of technology justice. Participation and technology are critical to ensure a sustainable, fair and just future for all.

  • We will put the poor and marginalised people at the centre of our efforts. Only by reducing the risk of the poorest and most vulnerable will the risk exposure of the whole community be reduced.
  • We will work with all stakeholders including the private sector especially around markets and DRR to understand the role that markets play in building the resilience or increasing the vulnerability of the poorest and most vulnerable.
  • We will call on governments and key stakeholders to reintegrate Disaster Risk Reduction into their policies.
  • We will advocate for the concept of Resilience and the practice of DRR to be fully integrated into the post-2015 development agendas.
  • We will promote the positive role that technology can play to promote disaster sensitive development.

Technology justice in DRR requires the involvement of the poorest and most vulnerable in the design and development of technological solutions that will deliver the biggest impacts. This requires a critical examination of not only how technology reduces vulnerability but also how the use of some technologies can exacerbate vulnerability, for example by degrading the local environment or contributing to climate change through increasing carbon emissions.

Flagship Projects


Early Warning Systems

Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance

Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance

Preventing floods from becoming disasters
Building Back Better

Building Back Better

Reconstruction in Nepal

Key DRR Publications:


Disaster Risk Reduction Policy Position Paper

This paper describes our policy work on Disaster Risk Reduction. It explains why we are working on this issue, outlines our aims and approaches, and sets out our recommendations.


EMMA introduction and overview chapter

The EMMA toolkit is a guidance manual for humanitarian staff in sudden-onset emergencies. It aims to improve emergency responses by encouraging and assisting relief agencies to better understand,...


Technical report on economic impact of landslides in Nepal

Technical report on Economic Impact Assessment of Sindhupalchowk landslides in Nepal in August 2014. This study examines the socio-economic effects of landslides to the particular locality....


DDR blog posts

  • Institutionalised vulnerability and the myth of the ‘natural’ disaster
    There is no such thing as a ‘natural’ disaster. Whether an extreme weather event or hazard results in a disaster depends on the degree of resilience a community enjoys. And what begins as one disaster can soon cascade into multiple, household level catastrophes. In March 2015, the Rimac river valley, east of Lima, Peru, experienced it’s heaviest rainfall in 80 years. This contributed to a mudslide that devastated the town, killing at least nine people and destroying homes and places of […]
  • How many more deaths will it take before Disaster Risk Reduction is adequately financed?
    The extent of the horrific devastation in Nepal caused by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake is being increasingly realised. At least 7,566 have died[1], and it is reported that over 8 million have been affected. Further, the long term impacts on communities’ livelihoods, children’s education, and health and psychological wellbeing are unimaginable.  Earthquakes are an everyday risk in the region, as are floods, landslides and many other hazards. Scientists have warned of a ‘big one’ for decades and some have even […]