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International Day for Disaster Reduction
13 October

Background

Communities, Peoples and Resilience

At the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, the international community was reminded that disasters hit hardest at the local level with the potential to cause loss of life and great social and economic upheaval. Sudden onset disasters displace millions of people every year. In 2014, 19.3 million people were newly displaced by disasters. Disasters, many of which are exacerbated by climate change, have a negative impact on investment in sustainable development and the desired outcomes.

It is also at the local level that capacities need to be strengthened urgently. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk ReductionPDF document is people-focussed and action-oriented in its approach to disaster risk reduction and applies to the risk of small-scale and large-scale disasters caused by man-made or natural hazards as well as related environmental, technological and biological hazards and risks.

New knowledge and coping strategies are being generated all the time as communities in hazard prone locations work out new ways and means to adapt to disaster and climate risk. In many aspects, indigenous people epitomise the importance of local knowledge and community-level engagement in disaster risk reduction. 370 million people around the world identify themselves as indigenous, in 90 countries. Indigenous peoples’ territories span over 24% of the earth’s surface and they manage 80% of the world’s biodiversity.

Many traditions, practices and customs which are important to environmental protection and managing disaster risk are embedded in those languages which are threatened with extinction. In both rural and urban settings, indigenous peoples have unique vulnerabilities and needs in disaster risk reduction and in post-disaster recovery. At the same time, indigenous peoples have unique capacities and knowledge.

"Step Up" campaign

Over the last four years, the UNISDR Step Up Campaign has focussed on the challenge of including major communities in disaster risk management, communities that have built up stores of knowledge on vulnerability and exposure to disasters from their own unique perspectives: Children (2011), Women and Girls (2012), Persons Living with Disabilities (2013) and Older Persons (2014).

All these groups have a communal experience and wisdom which can strengthen preparedness and response for society as a whole. This year’s International Day concludes the series with a searching look at how knowledge held by communities united by the common threat of disasters, deploy the knowledge and insight born of place, tradition and experience.

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