Global risk from natural hazards is increasing 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 increases, especially for the poorest. This can be seen not only in the developing world, but also in developed countries where disasters such as Hurricane Katrina affect the poorest neighbourhoods most severely.
It is widely recognised that there is a mutually-reinforcing relationship between disaster risk and development: disasters impact development and development affects disasters. Evidence shows that recurrent disasters undermine development objectives, particularly in low-income countries. The extensive time required to recover from damage, the loss of capacity with which to rebuild, and the negative impacts on livelihoods can result in erosive coping strategies that in extreme cases can trap people in poverty.
Practical Action believes that only by working with communities across multiple scales, supporting them to consider multiple hazards and understand the consequences of development choices, will they be empowered to escape poverty. The aim is a balance between investment in livelihoods for continuing development, and setting aside adequate resources for when things go wrong. Resilience is only possible through the integration of disaster risk management and development aspirations.
Practical Action is working on the ground to build community resilience to hazards, and integrate disaster risk management with development. However, to evaluate and demonstrate impact, we must find innovative new ways of measuring resilience.
Building resilience on the ground depends on integrating knowledge into practice:
- Indigenous knowledge of existing and past threats
- Scientific knowledge about future threats
The aim is not to bring communities back up to the level of development they had reached previous to a disaster, but to build back better and bounce back further: resilient, sustainable development.