Recently there has been an increased focus on disaster risk reduction (DRR) in humanitarian policy, which puts emphasis on prevention, mitigation, and preparedness (PMP).
It is not, therefore, unexpected for the IFRC’s annual World Disasters Report to concentrate on Disaster and Risk. What is perhaps not so predictable, however, is the introduction of culture into the equation, as a cross-cutting issue which actively affects DRR. The concern is that the impact of DRR programming and initiatives will be less sustained if people’s cultures, beliefs and attitudes in relation to risk are not sufficiently addressed.
The report tackles questions and issues surrounding religion, livelihoods, the myth of community, the built environment and culturally sensitive public health. These topics are not necessarily taken into consideration when creating organisational frameworks and funding models for DRR, but are extremely important; if people at risk do not use the same rationale or thought-process as a supportive organisation, the policies and programmes undertaken may be futile.
The unity between DRR and development is on the agenda for the successor of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), which is currently being negotiated by various policy makers and international agencies, to be agreed in March 2015 at Sendai, Japan. This provides an opportunity to rethink international policy for reducing disaster risk; the IFRC’s World Disasters Report 2014 (WDR14) welcomes this opportunity, highlighting the impact culture and religion have in disasters and how that has been somewhat neglected until now. The report details how important it is for all causes of vulnerability in DRR to be accounted for, including cultural vulnerability.
The WDR14 does not of course have all the answers and solutions, but it certainly provides a good place to start. The timing of the report is key, with the HFA and Millennium Development Goals currently being reworked. It gives a sound foundation to start from, with indications on what steps to take in the future and innovative ideas for tackling cultural vulnerability in DRR. This challenge has to do with knowledge and understanding to effectively develop programmes and initiatives which can have more of an impact on disaster in high-risk regions.
Download the report here: http://www.ifrc.org/publications-and-reports/world-disasters-report/world-disasters-report-2014/