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Life Sucks

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Disaster Risk Management
Hydrometeorological hazards such as floods, droughts and tropical cyclones afflict many regions of the world, but their impact in terms of lives lost and livelihoods disrupted tends to fall most heavily on the poor in developing countries. Climate change threatens to heighten these impacts in many areas, both by changing the frequency and/or intensity of extreme events and by bringing changes in mean conditions that may alter the underlying vulnerability of populations to hazards. The result in the decades to come may be an increase in the global burden of weather-related disasters: events that can threaten the sustainability of development processes and undermine progress toward poverty reduction.
Holistic management of disaster risk requires action to reduce impacts of extreme events before, during and after they occur, including technical preventive measures and aspects of socio-economic development designed to reduce human vulnerability to hazards. Approaches toward the management of climate change impacts also have to consider the reduction of human vulnerability under changing levels of risk. A key challenge and opportunity therefore lies in building a bridge between current disaster risk management efforts aimed at reducing vulnerabilities to extreme events and efforts to promote climate change adaptation. There is a need to understand better the extent to which current disaster management practices reflect future adaptation needs and assess what changes may be required if such practices are to address future risks. At the World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) in Kobe, Japan, 2005, the inter-agency Vulnerability and Adaptation Resource Group (VARG) presented the discussion paper “Disaster Risk Management in a Changing Climate” to support a dialogue on synergies and differences between approaches to disaster risk management and adaptation to climate change. At Kobe, the link between disaster risk management and climate change was subject of intensive formal and informal debates. Overall, the outcomes of WCDR call for a strengthening of preventive measures aimed at reducing loss of human lives, and loss of economic and environmental assets of communities and countries over the next ten years. The priorities for actions were outlined in the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters. The Framework supports a stronger recognition of climate change concerns in disaster risk reduction strategies and seeks to establish multi-disciplinary, forward looking approach. In this context the importance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is recognized.
These developments prompted VARG to initiate the follow-up project Linking Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management for Sustainable Poverty Reduction is a key contribution to this theme. The project used grounded examples in Mexico, Kenya and Vietnam and exchange of experiences across those contexts to provide insights into how a more integrated approach to disaster risk management and climate change adaptation can be built. Although risk assessments formed part of the studies, main emphasis was placed on analysing the institutional capacity and constraints/opportunities within the policy process. One area within each country was also selected for more detailed investigation to help ground and inform the national-level institutional analysis. The chosen areas were Nam Dinh province in Vietnam, Yucatan State in Mexico; and Kitui district in Kenya.

In each of the country studies assessment was made of current efforts to address disaster risks and climate change, focussing particularly on aspects that can help build inter-linkage between disaster risk management and climate change adaptation. In this context the country studies explored several key components of climate resilient development covering the generation and communication of climate risk and vulnerability information, institutional capacity and coordination, community level activities and financing of disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change. Though the studies revealed important advances in each of these components, they also highlighted major impediments to progress and elements that need strengthening if integration is to succeed. Drawing from the three studies, Table 1 summarizes the principal mechanisms (positive) and barriers (negative) that have shaped how effective that process has been to date. These and other key points are then expanded on in the sections that follow. EXISTING MECHANISMS/INCENTIVE | EXISTING BARRIERS TO INTEGRATION | > Improving science base for forecasting/modelling climatic conditions at different spatial and temporal scales > Growing efforts to relate hazard information to vulnerability factors > Improved procedures for hazard diagnosis and risk assessment > Regular updating of disaster risk assessment and management guidelines provides flexibility over time > Improving channels for communication of information between science and users > Existing coordination structures for disaster risk management > Strategic and policy advances in strengthening disaster risk management > Political momentum from major disaster events to consider future risks > Project activity at local/community level in disaster risk management, often with focus on underlying vulnerability > Some positive examples of providing and accessing funds for long-term risk management | > Inadequate provision of high-resolution meteorological data for detecting trends and validating models > Shortages or poor access to physical (e.g. hydrological) and socioeconomic datasets for assessing risk > Insufficient incorporation of implications of climate change in risk assessments > Analyses of potential climate change impacts stop short of identifying practical adaptation options > Gaps in awareness and understanding of risk and climate change projections > Relatively weak coordination mechanisms regarding climate change adaptation > Under-development of a preventive, disaster risk reduction approach > Threat of discontinuity in policies, structures, programmes, plans > Projects that address climate change in disaster management are fragmented and tend to be donor-driven > Disaster emergency response continues to divert funds > Barriers to investment in risk reduction and adaptation |

The generation and provision of reliable and appropriate information on present and future climate risks is a key component of adaptation. Improvement of data sources and modelling capacity is both an adaptation in itself and a resource on which to base adaptive decisions and action. In all three countries there is an improving science base with respect to climatic extremes and climate change, including recent advances in modelling in both government meteorological/hydrological agencies and university departments. Short-term forecasting capacity is improving especially for drought and windstorms, and progress is emerging in application of long-term climate models. There is ongoing work in Kenya and Mexico to develop regional climate models driven by the input derived from global climate models. For Vietnam the development of country specific climate change scenarios is still in its early stages but application of a regional climate model for the region has now started at the Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology together with the SEA-START Regional Center.
An important bottleneck to understanding the implications of climate change remains collection of and access to meteorological data of sufficiently high resolution and continuity. This is crucial for detecting important local and regional scale climatic trends as well as validating regional projections of climate models (and hence reducing uncertainties in the projections). Insufficient spatial and temporal coverage of meteorological datasets for the study countries is a fundamental problem. Another major constraint, however, is that existing data sources are often not fully utilized and data from national and/or external sources can be difficult to access, especially for scientists and local stakeholders. Financial limitations are a further constraining factor in the study countries, particularly in Kenya and Vietnam. This often limits the ability of institutions to attract and keep skilled staff as well as strengthen computational capacities and gain access to advanced technologie
The generation of data is one issue; the translation and dissemination of data in a form that facilitates decision-making processes is another. There is growing effort in the study countries to relate information on physical exposure to natural hazards with socioeconomic and environmental factors that influence whether the hazard will translate into a disaster. Procedures for risk assessment for different contexts are increasingly being developed and applied. Information tools being developed in Kenya to assess drought risks incorporate data from different sectors and cover different scales. The design of the tools is demand driven and has worked well with end-users. In Mexico, the National Centre for Disaster Prevention (CENAPRED) has developed a hazard diagnosis tool and risk atlas to assist in identifying areas of high vulnerability to hazards. The mapping explicitly takes into account social and economic aspects of population vulnerability and the vulnerability of infrastructure, and is updatable to reflect changing socio-economic patterns.

Again, provision and access to physical and socioeconomic datasets can be a limiting factor in this work in some countries. Furthermore, it is important to relate the existing conditions of vulnerability to implications of climate change for hazard exposure: in both the risk assessment initiatives noted above work is needed to incorporate the implications of climate change for changes in risk. Though it may be logical for risk assessment tools to focus on short to medium-term risk, integration of a longterm perspective is needed to avoid solutions that may become maladaptive in future. In tandem with advances in risk assessment considerable work is still to be done in the identification, development and evaluation of practical actions for adaptation. The study in Vietnam points out that little work has been carried out to date on setting out adaptation options, even in the coastal zone where the long-term future of coast protection urgently needs to be reconsidered and alternative management options costed and evaluated.
Regarding the communication of climate risks to end users, the country studies show that diverse dissemination strategies are being used. Information is increasingly tailored and packaged with the characteristics of the end-users and their environment in mind. For example, in Kenya early warning of climatic extremes and prediction bulletins are available to decision makers through the IGAD Climate Predictions and Applications Centre (ICPAC), while climate forecasts are made available to local communities by the Kenya Meteorological Department and local radio stations. These Climate Outlook Bulletins have been quite successful in generating responses because the responsibilities of different stakeholders were clearly defined and training was provided for the use and advance of early warning systems. Furthermore, the Kenya Food Security Structure allows stakeholders to reach consensus on necessary measures quickly.
However, the country studies also point to persistent gaps between the production of climate risk information and the ability of decision-makers and vulnerable stakeholders to interpret and react to such information. Despite growing links between climate science and decision makers at different levels and sectors, communication is still in need of strengthening, with deficiencies commonly remaining in the awareness and understanding of risk, particularly in relation to climate change (e.g. confusion between climate variability and long-term change, and misunderstandings over the use of probabilities in projections of future risk). The uptake of climate information is also hampered by lack of trust and may require concerted efforts in ‘bridge building’ between scientists and stakeholders within the implementing institutions.
The effective reduction of vulnerabilities to current natural hazards and to climate change requires coordination across different levels and sectors of governance and the involvement of a broad range of stakeholders. To strengthen the link between disaster risk management and adaptation to climate change, it is also important to understand when, and at what level, coordination is required, and who should take the lead.
Adaptation to climate change is not simply an extension of disaster risk management. Adaptation to climate change not only means addressing changes in the intensity and frequency of extreme events, but also more subtle changes in climatic conditions as well as new emerging risks, which have not been experienced in a region before. Shifts in the timing of and magnitude of rainfall, rising temperatures and changes climate variability will in many ways affect natural resources and the quality of ecosystem services and hence impact on livelihoods and economic sectors that depend on them. Glacial Lake Outburst Floods or the emergence of vector borne diseases due to climatic changes may pose new challenges for a region, which had no experience in dealing with such hazards and hence limited capacity to address them. These changing risk patterns call for institutional foresight and planning, but coordination requirements and stakeholder engagement will be defined by the type of risk that is being addressed. The link with disaster risk management is one aspect of this.
The country studies suggest that structures for institutional interaction on disaster risk management are steadily improving, although problems remain both in divisions of responsibility for different stages of the disaster cycle and in interaction between disaster risk management agencies and other sectors. Mexico for example has a system for civil protection that comprises formal and informal interactions between government-linked institutions and non-governmental organizations, includes financial mechanisms, regulations and policies and incorporates also community-driven initiatives. It is also part of the regional disaster reduction organization, Centro de Coordinacion para la Prevencion de los Desastres Naturales en America Central (CEPREDENAC). In Kenya, the Kenyan Food Security Structure provides effective linkage across government ministries, climate scientists and NGOs to coordinate disaster risk management. The development of a National Platform and National Disaster Policy have further strengthened coordination across sectors for disasters in Kenya. Disaster coordination in Vietnam is achieved largely through a nested network of Committees for Flood and Storm Control, operating at central, provincial, district and commune scales. The committees bring together representatives from a range of sectors at each scale to update disaster preparedness plans and coordinate disaster relief.
Coordination in relation to managing short-term disaster risk and longer-term risks associated with climate change is generally rather less well developed at present. As common to many countries, there is continuing institutional fragmentation between management of these risks affecting all three countries. Primary responsibility for climate change adaptation lies with the environment ministries in Kenya, Mexico and Vietnam, while disaster risk management lies primarily with government structures for civil defence and/or agriculture, rural development and food security. The location of climate change within the environment sector also tends to isolate it institutionally from the development agenda. The Mexico study also notes that the fragmentation is further reflected in different forms of technical expertise concentrated in the different institutions.

The establishment of multi-sectoral committees and similar initiatives may help to strengthen interlinkages between disaster risk management and climate change adaptation. In the study countries these include an Inter-Ministerial Commission for Climate Change in Mexico, an Inter-Ministerial Committee for Climate Change in Kenya and a Thematic Ad-hoc Working Group on climate change adaptation in Vietnam. While this is a promising development, these initiatives tend to have limited authority and mandate, and often suffer from lack of influence on budgeting processes, which limits the ability to build long-term and sustainable risk reduction efforts. Moreover, there may be gaps in inclusion of key agencies: in Mexico, for example the Inter-Ministerial Commission does not currently include the Ministry of Interior and CENAPRED, though these have principal responsibility for disaster prevention, preparedness and response
Progress toward climate change adaptation in government agencies depends on political commitment and institutional capacity, reflected in robust policies and strategies geared toward consideration of disaster risk reduction and long-term changes in risk. Significant policy advances have been gained in strengthening disaster risk management, including key national policies/strategies in Kenya and Vietnam. In Kenya, implementation of a National Policy on Disaster Management, together with the ongoing creation of an overarching national authority for disaster risk management (NADIMA) within government offers coordination and long-term oversight for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction. To this end prioritization of climate change is likely to be closely interconnected with prioritization of disasters, and there is some evidence that the political attention raised by recent disasters such as the 2005 hurricane season in Mexico and the 2004-2006 drought in Kenya has raised concerns over climate change risks. Engagement in national communications to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the development of National Platforms by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN-ISDR) may also have raised the profile of climate risks, and the momentum gained from such initiatives should continue to be harnessed.
However, progress in terms of integration in political agendas and institutional priorities remains mixed. Though significant policy advances have been gained in strengthening disaster risk management, including the development of key national strategies and policies in Vietnam and Kenya, the continuing under-emphasis on a preventive approach to disaster risk reduction hinders moves toward long-term adaptation. For typhoon risk in Vietnam, for example, the focus in practice remains on emergency response and reconstruction rather than long-term risk prevention and similar conclusions apply to hurricane risk in Mexico. Mexico’s National Development and National Environment plans do not clearly articulate linkages between climate change, disaster risk and poverty, and the equivalent state-level plans for hurricane-prone Yucatan do not even refer to climate change. Finally, the momentum and political leadership required to initiate and sustain governmental initiatives on long-term issues such as climate change tends to suffer from the political realities of short-term electoral cycles. Issues such as climate change can suffer from the threat of discontinuity in policies, structures, programmes, plans, especially in contexts where changes in administration create staffing changes that penetrate deep into governmental structures.
Efforts to forge greater capacity at the national scale have to be mirrored by work at the local scale to increase the ability of local institutions and communities to cope with present and future risks from climatic hazards. In many cases, when there are high levels of poverty and limited adaptive capacity, emphasis in local level risk management needs to be placed on addressing current climate variability and trends that are already having an impact – adaptation that focuses on future climate change risks may not always be feasible. In such cases, the key is to ensure that action addressing nearterm vulnerabilities includes a longer-term perspective, in order to avoid initiating maladaptive processes at the local level that provide a short-term remedy but do not provide a sustainable solution.
Initiatives targeted at local and community level in disaster risk management and related fields are evident in all three study countries, led largely by NGOs but with increasing governmental involvement. Processes of decentralisation in state systems may have helped foster local level work. Vietnam possesses a network of local scale disaster management organizations through its nested system of flood and storm control committees, which bridges local and national scale activities. These may also be used as vehicles to raise awareness and record observations of the impacts of changing climatic conditions. The importance of decentralized systems was also underlined in the assessments in Mexico, where it was suggested that NGOs working in disaster response tend to focus on working with state and municipal governments because this makes action on the ground easier to coordinate.
Some of the local level disaster risk management projects explicitly include attention to climate change and long term vulnerability reduction needs, and may place this forward-looking view within an approach that emphasizes strengthening of livelihood resilience and wellbeing of the poor. Linking long-term disaster risk management with poverty reduction can be seen as an inherently flexible mechanism of planned adaptation, because greater resilience (in terms of income stability, economic diversification, access to resources, information and material assets) in the livelihoods of the poor raises their capacity for autonomous adaptation to changing risk. Existing holistic projects with broader integrative goals relating to climate change include housing reconstruction programmes in Yucatan, drought management projects in Kitui, and mangrove reforestation in Nam Dinh (see Box 4). However, the three country assessments suggest that most work on the ground explicitly including climate change adaptation tends to be ad hoc, based largely on opportunities provided by donors and international NGOs. There is no evidence of a systematic integration of disaster risk management and climate change adaptation in terms of concrete project activities, other than coordination and awareness-raising. It is also often not clear to what extent donor-driven projects activities mesh with national level policies and local development priorities, raising implications for their sustainability. For instance, in some sites in Vietnam mangroves have already been cut again as local communities take up fisheries activities in the areas where mangroves were replanted. One exception has been the Special Project on Arid Land Resources Management (ALRMP) in Kenya, which considers a livelihood approach to managing the environment and adapting to climate risks. The key characteristic has been the ability to facilitate a coordination mechanism between different stakeholders on the ground and between the competing objectives of different District Ministries.
Financing for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation can come from national budgets, international donors and private sector sources. With regard to national budgets, one recent positive development in Mexico that may foster a longer-term approach to risk is the newly-created Fund for the Prevention of Disasters (FOPREDEN), intended to secure more stable financing for disaster risk reduction. It complements the already existing disaster fund, FONDEN, which is aimed mainly at support for rapid relief and recovery. Internationally, UNFCCC adaptation funds are available to help mainstream climate risk management into policies and planning. All three countries have developed proposals to these funds, via the Global Environment Facility (GEF). For example, in Vietnam one new project and two current proposals to GEF are being coordinated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). These and other public financing sources for adaptation stand in addition to an increasing emphasis among donor agencies on financial incentives toward disaster risk reduction as a complement to emergency relief. The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) provides a framework for disaster risk reduction actions for governments, as well as a means to track progress.
Overall, however, concrete investment in adaptation efforts in the study countries remains limited at present and financial mechanisms for disaster prevention in both the short-term and long-term remain inadequate. This is a situation common to most low and middle income countries. This is a problem because disaster emergency response continues to divert resources away from building capacity to reduce future risk across the study countries. Short-term planning horizons and difficulties in evaluating long-term benefits in cost-benefit analysis both appear to have hampered justification of investment in risk reduction at the national scale. Several participants in the project workshop stressed that disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation require budget lines if they are to become mainstreamed, but that, in order for this to be achieved, a clear cost-benefit or costeffectiveness case needs to be made to convince finance ministries that public spending is justified. Workshop participants also highlighted a lack of awareness and understanding of available funding mechanisms from donor sources and how to access them successfully. It is also important to explore further in the study countries how the private sector can help create incentives for adaptation action and finance the costs.
Many DRR and adaptation projects are currently driven by governments and NGOs, such as mangrove rehabilitation, better land-use planning and building regulation. There was limited evidence in the countries case studies of private sector support for the integration process, with a focus primarily on risk transfer and insurance. It will be important for the international community to consider mechanisms to improve engagement of the private sector, which although beyond the capacity of this project, will be especially critical given that national governments and the UNFCCC alone may not have the financial capacity to support all costs associated with adaptation and vulnerability reduction. For example, private capital flows, such as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), could be influenced to support investment in infrastructure, business, or energy. Governments could look for ways to influence the major private investments in climate sensitive sectors, for example by providing incentives for risk reduction, and through regulation and setting of standards. The engagement of corporate sectors that calculate risk, such as the insurance sector, could provide opportunities to gain insight in risks, and ways to either transfer or reduce risks. At the local scale and community level, NGO’s and self-help groups have started initiatives to reduce vulnerability to drought for example (e.g. SASOL in Kenya or micro-insurance support). It would be worthwhile to further explore synergies between private, public and local non-governmental efforts.

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