Guest post by Jane Fiona Cumming (Article 13)
Consider, on the one hand, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. On the other, Cumbria’s 2009 floods and the 2011 earthquake in New Zealand. Natural disasters all. But what sets the first two apart from the second two? The answer lies in the response, in the level of community resilience. Sadly deficient in New Orleans and Port-au-Prince but very much in evidence in Cockermouth and Christchurch.
Disaster risk reduction and resilience building is one of the key sustainable development issues on the Rio+20 agenda. Much has been achieved since the UN General Assembly declared the 1990s to be the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. But as the Rio+20 Issues Brief on the subject points out: “Effective implementation of the internationally agreed goals on disaster preparedness and resilience requires a cross-ministerial, multi-stakeholder and multi-hazard approach and there is still a long way to go to achieve this.”
Perhaps even more so than in every other area of sustainable development, resilience building calls for both ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ approaches. From supra-national preparedness to corporate planning, from community awareness to the actions of single individuals – when a natural disaster strikes, the term ‘multi-stakeholder’ really does mean what it says.
How does one achieve such a level of co-ordinated engagement? It starts with everyone who holds any degree of responsibility for decision-making asking one simple question: “Have we got the right people in the room?”
Editor’s note: Article 13 also recently published a full-length featured article discussing resilience. Read it here.