How integrating risk management can help poor people
16 March 2011
Leading development agencies and policy-makers and practitioners from 21 countries gathered in Addis Ababa this week at an event designed to drive an integrated approach to reducing poor people’s vulnerability to climate change, disasters and other shocks and stresses affecting their livelihoods.
The four-day international workshop, called 'Making Social Protection Work for Pro-Poor Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation,' was organised by IDS, The World Bank, DFID and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). It brought together experts from the fields of social protection, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in order to increase understanding of how the three approaches can learn from each other and work together. It was opened by the President of Ethiopia, Girma Wolde-Giogis.
"No one on this planet is immune to the facts of climate change or disaster, whether natural or man-made," the President said. "It is however in the developing world countries where the impacts are more clearly felt. Whether it is flooding, drought, landslide, forest fire, conflict, disease or economic shocks, not only are developing countries more aggressively impacted but it is often the lower income groups who are most vulnerable."
Adaptive social protection
The workshop was co-organised by IDS's Adaptive Social Protection in the Context of Agriculture and Food Security programme (ASP programme), which is seeking to explore and highlight the benefits of an interlinked approach to risk reduction and resilience building for poor people in rural areas of developing countries.
The ASP programme is taking into account evidence from social protection, which helps poor households manage risks through programmes such as conditional cash transfers; disaster risk reduction, which seeks to reduce people's vulnerability to catastrophic natural disasters; and climate change adaptation, which helps poor people adapt to climate change.
All three approaches are concerned with reducing poor people’s vulnerability by managing the risks they face, increasing their coping mechanisms and helping them to adapt and find new livelihood opportunities. Until now, however, there has been no major attempt to consider their integration and resulting synergies.
IDS Director, Lawrence Haddad, told the Addis workshop that there were undoubted challenges to integrating different approaches into adaptive social protection (ASP). For example, each constituent approach has its origins in a different academic discipline, each has its own language, technical jargon, networks and ways of thinking, and each addresses challenges on a different timescale. The approaches also benefit from different funding streams. However, he stressed, the potential benefits of ASP are huge.
Transforming and promoting livelihoods
Initial research by the ASP programme shows that an ASP approach to global and local shocks and stresses can, among other benefits, help transform and promote livelihoods, target communities with tailored assistance and introduce a longer-term perspective for social protection and disaster risk reduction.
The two-and-a-half-year UK Department for International Development (DFID) funded programme will now look in depth at case studies where the three approaches have come together in East Africa and South Asia. It will consider the evidence for ASP as well as any obstacles that may need to be overcome with the emphasis on producing practical guidance for governments, policy makers and practitioners.
Speakers at the Addis workshop included Vijy Kumar, Joint Secretary of India's Ministry of Rural Development, and Tewolde B.G. Egziabher, Director-General of Ethiopia’s Environmental Protection Agency.
Andrew Steer, special envoy for climate change with the World Bank and former director general of DFID, said the 11 March Japanese earthquake served as a reminder of how dangerous the world could be, with natural disasters appearing to be increasing in terms of frequency, and certainly increasing in terms of their impact. "While the poor of the world have done almost nothing to cause the problem they will almost certainly bear the biggest burden of pain."
It was time, he said, for the three main approaches to risk reduction and adaptation to come out of their 'parallel universes' and find ways forward to work together.
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