Tag Archives: HFA2

Disaster risk reduction – from wheelchairs to typhoons

During my visit to the UN in Geneva this week, I was trying to work out how to talk about DRR and relate it to something in everyday life. Arriving back in Brussels and seeing my damaged wheelchair (sorry, no photos), gave me an idea… In this case, good DRR (Disaster Risk Reduction) would have been removing the joystick before giving the chair to the baggage handlers. This might have meant it survived the journey…

Ethic of prevention

On a global scale, when we are talking about whole communities (even whole populations) being affected by earthquakes, floods, droughts and cyclones, my story may seem incomparable. But the basic premise is the same: A good ethic of prevention will reduce the effects of such natural events.

Next March, in Sendai, Japan, the UNISDR will approve plans for global DRR after 2015. From Sunday to Tuesday this week I was in Geneva, at ‘Prepcom 2’, which is a step on the journey towards this event. Here, my CBM colleagues and I, plus many other members of the disability group, attended and took part in meetings. We are working to ensure disability is included in the global plans, and on the whole are greatly encouraged by current developments.

Disability-inclusive Sendai, and positive zero-draft

A group of people in front of screen with text 'WCDRR'

The announcement of ‘accessible Sendai’

One of the main announcements from this gathering is that Sendai WCDRR will be disability-inclusive. This means real-time captioning, sign language, and and outcome documents will be provided in accessible format. I had to leave the final session early to catch my plane but I read that the head of UNISDR Margareta Wahlström, in her closing remarks, said she was particularly pleased about these commitments.

In the document itself (which is currently at ‘zero-draft‘ stage) there are already many positive references to disability inclusion – it is recognised that Universal Design, accurate data about disability in disasters and accessible information and communication are all essential. And importantly, persons with disabilities are recognised as resources in building resilience as well as being more at- risk.

This zero draft is now being negotiated, and will be refined before Sendai, but we are very hopeful that the message that inclusion is essential is really in for good. Indeed, listening to the statements on Monday it definitely looks this way; by my count at least seven countries/regions mentioned disability inclusion, including the European Union, Latin America and the USA. I also sat in on the negotiations for a while (highly recommended, if you ever get the chance) and far from being removed, references to disability were actually added in two places.

Disability group recognised as important stakeholder group

A large conference hall with hundreds of delegates

Statements being read from regions and countries during the plenary session

As a recognised important stakeholder group, we ourselves read two statements – Thai Senator Monthian Buntan referring to the recent statement made by the UN CRPD Committee and MEP Ádám Kósa impressively demonstrating some conference access requirements by delivering his statement from the front of the auditorium as his sign interpretors were unable to work from the seating situation – a good learning for everyone there.

Targets and indicators

One of the next steps for UNISDR is to define targets and indicators for monitoring and reporting on DRR. With this in mind, the disability caucus organised a meeting brainstorming on making sure these indicators are disability-inclusive. Here, as an example of good practice, we had sign language interpretation and real-time captioning.

We had presentations from Monthian Buntan and Ádám Kósa, followed by a lively discussion. The key themes that surfaced were that indicators must be kept simple, reflect measurable levels of accessibility and participation and, as with all inclusion, people with disability must be involved at all stages. It was also noted, interestingly, that accessible technology is a developing opportunity, but must be reliable during disasters.

It may sound like a lot to achieve, but it does look like decision-makers have understood that not only are people with disability more at-risk, but their knowledge and experience is invaluable to the building of the resilience of communities as a whole.

On a personal level, my chair was not badly damaged (fixed already) but I already have a few plans to better protect it on my next trip…

Resources to advocate for active inclusion of people with disabilities in DRR



Positive references to disability in DRR outcome document

It seems like yesterday that I last blogged, when I was so inspired about the shift in attitude towards disability from vulnerable to active participation. I’m still excited about it, and after the conference declaration was released today it looks like we are still on course.

A woman on stage with two people

Kazol Rekha, a young woman living in a village in a flood-prone area of Bangladesh, talks about her role on a local DRR committee

The last few days here at the 6th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) in Bangkok has seen people from many different countries sharing their opinions on the way forward in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

They’ve been showing examples from their home communities by giving live presentations and showing videos, and asking questions and raising issues during debates.

As you’ll have seen if you’ve been following us on Twitter or Facebook (do click the links!) we took part in all this, with our partners from the Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Network (DiDRRN), including representative from many Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) from the region.

We all know what we want – to make the post HFA document properly disability-inclusive, meaning that persons with disabilities are actively involved in DRR processes – and I seen so many great arguments for it. People have described it in different ways: People with disabilities should be seen as ‘agents of change, not vulnerable‘, ‘leaders, not liabilities‘, or ‘empowered decision makers, not passive recipients‘. Even Margareta Wahlström, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for DRR, said that the path ahead requires an inclusive and participatory work model involving everyone, during her opening speech on Tuesday.

This morning, the final declaration from the conference was released and includes reference to inclusion, disability and accessibility, in the context of ‘meaningful participation’ and ‘positive contribution’. Also, after Atif Sheikh, from our partner STEP, read the voluntary commitments from the disability stakeholder group, Ms Wahlström endorsed the right of persons with disability to be actively present in these discussions.

So all in all, good; a productive few days (plus all the hard work that has been done in the lead up to this week!)

But there is still so much to be done: we must make sure that the message remains loud and clear right up to the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan next March, and beyond. As Dodo (see below) said, “Let us persons with disabilities come together and show the world that, if empowered, we can build a better society”

I’ll leave you with some impressions and opinions from the last few days… enjoy.

Media panel discussion

Media panel discussion

I was part of a panel discussion on media, for international journalists, about disability inclusion in DRR and the role of the media. It must have been successful because I ran out of business cards to give out after it… let’s see how many people use them!

CBM also organised two similar events through the week: one for Thai journalists and one for young journalists. These were also successful, with the latter one featured on the conference newsletter today.

A man on astage communicating in sign. Behind him is a banner 'IGNITE STAGE - 6th AMFDRR'

Son Do explaining the video

Son Do, who is from Vietnam, is deaf, and works as a sign language translator/teacher. He is developing a project including a video for deaf people to learn about Community-Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM), which he showed as a side event during the conference.

The video shows a mapping system with accessible icons showing features like houses where people with disabilities live, areas affected by flooding, and evacuation paths.

Many people in a large auditorium, including wheelchair users and someone with crutches

Plenary session

Dodo (right, wearing shorts) and Parman (furthest left) are from Indonesia, and are seen here during one of the plenary sessions. Dodo is the leader of a health volunteer group which focuses on inclusion  of persons with disabilities in mainstream services. Both men have been identified as potential DRR leaders in their communities and told me they are looking forward to putting their learnings from the conference into practice at home.

Yousaf (with the camera) is from PSPDO, an implementng partner of STEP, based in Pakistan.

A woman seated

Litia, at the DIDRRN booth

Litia,  from Fiji, is a Community Based Inclusive Development officer with CBM partner Pacific Disability Forum.

She says “I am the expert in disability … I know the development that can happen if we are included”.

She goes to village, provincial and district meetings, persuading committees of the rights of persons with disabilities, and put her point across in style on stage yesterday, when she said that “Active inclusion of persons with disability in DRR will change mindsets”

Resources to advocate for disability inclusive post-2015 framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (HFA2)