Global risk from natural hazards has been rising due to poor development exacerbated by climate change. As competition for scarce resources increases and more people by necessity choose to live in hazard-prone areas, the level of risk especially for the poorest increases. This is seen not only in the mega disasters in the developing world, but also in natural disasters in the developed world, such as Hurricane Katrina in which the poor and poorest neighbourhoods suffered the most.
It is widely recognized that there is a mutually reinforcing relationship between disaster risk and development: disasters impact development and development impacts disasters. Evidence shows that repeated disasters undermine development objectives, which is particularly evident in low income countries. The extensive time required to recover from damage, the loss of capacity with which to rebuild, and existing risk negatively affecting livelihoods, in extreme cases trapping people in poverty.
Practical Action believes that only by working with communities at multiple scales, considering multiple hazards and understanding the consequences of development choices made today, will communities be empowered to escape poverty. The intrinsic link between scare resources and what people choose to do with them is crucial. The ambition is to get a balance between what they invest in their livelihoods to optimise their development pathway, and ensure they have set aside adequate resources to respond when things go wrong. A pathway to resilience will only be possible by integrating disaster risk management with development aspirations.
A positive outcome will be seen in communities’ enhanced resilience to natural hazards. But demonstrating this impact without waiting for the next disaster to strike presents a particular challenge: measuring resilience is not as easy as it sounds.
At Practical Action we have developed the Vulnerability to Resilience (V2R) methodology to work with communities in a participatory way to explore their development options. V2R asks whether coping mechanisms will be adequate to respond if things go wrong. We are also exploring the same logic at greater scales to assist local governments to make informed decisions that deliver the best options with limited resources.