Disaster Risk Reduction

Recognising Displacement and Human Rights at the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction


Last month, over 4,000 people assembled in Geneva for a meeting that showcased state-of-the-art approaches to addressing the growing challenges associated with climate change, urbanisation, inequality and disaster.

This is a blog post from Matthew Scott, RWI’s Team Leader for the People on the Move thematic area, who attended the meeting:

The delegates from around the world assembled for the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR). It is a biennial event that sets the agenda for action towards fulfilment of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) 2015-2030.

A dizzying array of panels addressed topics ranging from technical issues such as disaster risk financing and multi-hazard early warning systems to human-centred community based disaster-risk management (CBDRM) and disaster displacement.

RWI is actively engaged in a number of programmes that seek to develop human rights-based approaches to disaster risk reduction and the associated forced displacement that more than 20 million people experience every year.

It was therefore encouraging to hear multiple references to human rights-based approaches over the course of the GPDRR, which are consolidated in the Co-Chairs’ Summary:

Disaster risk reduction policies, strategies, and programmes, including risk assessments, should target drivers of inequality and exclusion and be informed by a human rights-based approach. Legislation and governance mechanisms should ensure the needs of the most at risk and marginalized groups are prioritized.

Human Rights-Based Methodologies for Disasters

RWI is a consortium partner in the regional Building Resilience through inclusive and climate-adaptive Disaster Risk Reduction in Asia-Pacific (BRDR Program). There we work in partnership with the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) and national and regional DRR actors. The goal is to identify and develop practical human rights-based methodologies to a range of disaster risk reduction policies, strategies and programmes, including risk assessments.

Displacement is one of the most prevalent forms of disaster-related harm, with over 17 million people newly displaced in 2018 alone. It is therefore encouraging that this phenomenon was clearly in focus at GPDRR 2019.

Not only was an entire working group session devoted to the topic, there was also a more interactive ‘Faces of Disaster Displacement’ session where survivors of disaster displacement reflected upon their experiences and the implications for law and policy.

It is therefore not surprising that disaster displacement features four times in the Co-Chairs’ Summary, including in this exhortation, highlighting the need to prevent displacement, protect people during displacement and facilitate durable solutions:

Governments and the international community must do more to reduce the risk of disaster displacement before disasters strike. Disaster risk reduction strategies and policies should address the drivers and consequences of disaster displacement and contribute to durable solutions. Climate change mitigation policies are necessary towards this end. Climate and disaster risks also need to be considered as factors of migration.

Understanding the Impact of Exposed and Vulnerable Social Conditions

RWI is moving towards the conclusion of its ten country study of the role of law and policy in addressing disaster displacement in Asia and the Pacific. And we have compiled a depth of insight into the extent to which disaster risk reduction strategies and policies already address the drivers and consequences of disaster displacement. In addition, we have produced a series of reports considering the extent to which existing approaches reflect international good practice standards and guidelines. We are now in the process of strengthening partnerships in order to contribute to the above-stated ambition identified by the Co-Chairs.

Disasters are often represented as states of exception where existing norms no longer apply.

On the contrary, a human rights-based approach frames disasters as the consequence of natural hazards interacting with exposed and vulnerable social conditions. Governments have a duty to take steps to address foreseeable risks, including the risk of disaster displacement.

Judging from the prominence of these topics at the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction, this is a message that is increasingly mainstream.

Article photo by UN DRR