Colin McQuistan

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I am the Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction senior adviser at Practical Action working in the Policy and Practice team. I am responsible for our global development work ensuring that we are not only adapting to the challenge of climate change and reducing risk, but that this is done in a way that builds the resilience of current and future populations. Practical Action work in five regions with a focus on the role of technology in reducing poverty, specifically the concept of technology justice how to ensure the design, development and mobilisation of technology is responding to the key development challenges.Before I joined Practical Action I was the Senior Adviser, Agriculture and Climate Change at Oxfam GB. I have over 30 years professional experience in the UK and overseas, and spent 20 years living and working in South East Asia working on a variety of development projects with local NGO’s, Governments and International agencies, including 6 years with WWF Greater Mekong as regional policy advisor. This provided direct field experience exploring community development and conservation through innovative approaches to sustainable development. Areas of special interest include systems approaches to development, sustainability, the challenge of Climate Change and building resilience in development.I am the chair of the U.K. Interagency Resilience Learning group coordinated by DFID and BOND made up of over 100 representatives of civil society, academia and the private sector exploring the challenge of resilience in development. I am also a member of the Rockefeller Community of Practice on measuring resilience a global network exploring the challenge of resilience measurement and a technical mentor to the Waterwindow the flood specific component of the Rockefeller global resilience partnership.

Recommended reading: http://www.practicalaction.org

Posts by Colin

  • Is the snail accelerating?

    November 13th, 2017

    With the first week of the conference done and dusted, where are we in negotiations?

    In September I wrote about the Government of Fiji’s ambition[1] for the 23rd session of the Conference of Parties (COP23) to the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. The first week of the conference is now over and the high level segment is about to begin. So are we any closer to a comprehensive deal to tackle climate change? A deal that needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to avoid catastrophic social systems failure, that puts in place mechanisms to help people in developing countries adapt to the challenge of climate change and for those where climate action is already too late, put in place a mechanism that responds to their Losses and Damages. A mechanism that helps them pick up the pieces and find a new life despite climate change exacerbated floods washing away their homes, sea level rise making their homes unliveable and fields unproductive or the multitude other ways that climate change impacts are already exceeding the capacity of the poorest to adapt.

    The negotiations are complex from a technical as well as a political perspective. Countries ultimately want to see an equitable deal that delivers on keeping climate change to within 1.5oC. A deal that recognises the different needs and builds from the contributions that each country can make.

    Based on progress during the first week the following three areas must not be forgotten by political leaders as they travel to attend next week, tasked on behalf of all of us to finalise and approve what need to be ambitious conference outcomes.

    First, get serious on mitigation, keep coal in the ground and shift from oil and gas to renewable sources as rapidly as possible!

    Location of coal power plants in the EU in 2016, circle diameter indicates capacity, country colours depict coal use per capita (darker shading indicates higher coal use per capita)

    Second, mainstream climate change in all development, ensure mitigation action doesn’t undermine progress on adaptation and vice versa!

    We know that to end poverty, we must reverse climate change as quickly as possible.  Without doing so, we risk pushing more than 100 million people back into poverty by 2030 from the impacts of climate change alone[2].

    Thirdly, pre 2020 ambition, the two year period before the Paris Agreement comes into force should be a race to climate excellence, not to be climate laggards!

    Prior to the COP starting the U.N Environment Programme released a sobering report[3] detailing the gap between what countries pledged in their initial Paris Agreement commitments — their nationally determined contributions — and what they will need to do in order to keep global warming below the ideal of 1.5oC. Unfortunately for future generations current commitments cover only approximately one third of the emissions reductions needed to be on a pathway of staying well below 2°C. This isn’t a surprise to delegates at the COP, what is alarming is the lack of progress on ramping up this ambition, particularly leadership by the developed world, leading by example on mitigation, and providing the technical and financial support needed to deliver on Adaptation and Loss and Damage to ensure that we do stay on the track agreed in Paris.

    [1] https://practicalaction.org/blog/programmes/climate_change/fijis-vision-for-cop23/

    [2] http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/11/08/rapid-climate-informed-development-needed-to-keep-climate-change-from-pushing-more-than-100-million-people-into-poverty-by-2030

    [3] https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/22070/EGR_2017.pdf

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  • Why the snail’s pace on tackling Loss and Damage?

    Hochstadenring 45, 53119 Bonn, Germany, Bonn
    November 7th, 2017

    We may all be sailing on the same ocean, living together in the same canoe, but it’s clear not everyone has their hands on the rudder.

    OR

    Can the five year work plan of the Warsaw International Mechanism deliver for Loss and Damage and Sustainable Development?

    This week representatives from around the world gather in Bonn, Germany for the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known informally as COP23. The president of this year’s summit is Fiji a small island developing state, one of the types of countries most affected by a lack of progress to tackle climate change. It’s worth remembering that this is the 23rd COP, which means that we have been talking about the issue of climate change for 23 years, in fact since the first gathering took place in Berlin in 1995. It was only at the 19th COP in Warsaw that the negotiators finally took the issue of Loss and Damage seriously recognising as a consequence of Typhoon Haiyan that struck the Philippines. This resulted in the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) and an Executive Committee being established[1].

    This year the consequence of lack of action tackling climate change has been well reported. Massive hurricanes in the Atlantic, leading to devastation in the US and Caribbean have been frontline news. The economic damage in Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida alone has been estimated at $300Bn. Less well reported are the communities on other Caribbean Islands trying to survive post devastation. Or the 41 million people in South Asia, struggling to rebuild their homes washed away by unprecedented flooding. Or the 38 million farmers across sub-Saharan Africa grappling with food shortages following two consecutive years of drought. These are all testament to the lack of progress on climate change and why Loss and Damage continues to struggle for the recognition it deserves.

    Today at the COP23, Practical Action, along with the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) hosted an event at which speakers from Care International, The International Institute of Applied Systems and Analysis (IIASA), the Climate and Development lab of Browns University and Climate Analytics came together to discuss why this is the case. To shed a much needed light on the issue of Loss and Damage.

    What are the problems that we are struggling with? It is clear that climate change is already having an impact on our ability to adapt and that this is felt most by the poorest and those with the least capacity to respond.

    Three simple measures that could nurture some progress on Loss and damage are as follows;

    1. Take the issue of Loss and Damage seriously. It is clear after only two days at the negotiations that countries, especially in the global south, are getting frustrated with the lack of progress on Loss and Damage. This has been escalated by the recent devastation around the world, but also the failure of the Warsaw International Mechanism to deliver realistic progress.
    2. Finance is desperately needed. Currently the Executive Committee of the WIM has no budget, not even for pilot studies. As a result progress is impossible. Even the Technology Executive Committee has a budget and an implementing arm the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN). Why isn’t the WIM equally empowered to drive their own work plan?
    3. Evidence and Knowledge of irreversible impacts are in short supply. Many developed country negotiators are still in denial about climate change. Therefore we need to capture the evidence of the irreversible impacts of climate change to be better able to articulate the consequences of inaction. Action not taken today means bigger impacts tomorrow. To try and provide more evidence Practical Action alongside several UK NGO’s who are members of the UK Bond Interagency Resilience Learning Group[2] will explore the actual costs of loss and damage – especially in off grid, non-monetised communities, often missing from global hazard datasets. However, we not only need to capture this evidence of climate impact we also need to better communicate this to policy makers and the general public to galvanise action.

    Finally what about Technology Justice? Everyone at COP23 is aware of the potential role that technology can play in catalysing climate action, I will write more about this potential in a blog later this week. For more information on our partners at the side event please check;

    http://www.icccad.net/icccad-at-cop23/

    http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/about/events/171106-COP23.html

    http:// careclimatechange.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/CARE_COP23_A6Final-2.pdf

    http://climateanalytics.org/events/2017/our-events-at-cop23-in-bonn.html

    http://www.climatedevlab.brown.edu/home/watch-out-for-browns-cdl-at-cop23-in-bonn

    [1] http://unfccc.int/adaptation/workstreams/loss_and_damage/items/8134.php

    [2] https://my.bond.org.uk/group/resilience-learning-group

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  • International Day for Disaster Reduction #IDDR2017

    October 13th, 2017

    International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) held every 13th October, celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters.

    Read more about International Day for Disaster Reduction and our work here: https://practicalaction.org/drr-2017

    “The link between climate change and the devastation we are witnessing is clear, and there is a collective responsibility of the international community to stop this suicidal development”

    Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General on recent visit to the Caribbean.

    In 2017 IDDR once again focusses on the seven targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction – a 15 year global agreement that aims to curb deaths and economic losses from natural and manmade hazards – which was signed by global governments in March 2015. This year’s focus is on Target B: reducing the number of affected people by disasters by 2030.

    This is no easy target. Disaster risk is outpacing development and is being made worse by climate change. This year the world has been hit by a catalogue of unprecedented natural hazards. 2017 started with catastrophic flooding in Latin America, followed by exceptional monsoon rains in South Asia, then a summer of massive wildfires in Europe, preceded the Atlantic Hurricane season that has seen a procession of devastating Hurricanes batter the Caribbean and US, as the year comes to an end wildfires consume California and threaten the regions wine industry, and the pacific typhoon season is about to begin.

    Four of the natural hazard events which became human disasters in 2017 clockwise; Hurricane Irma, Colombia mudslides, US wildfires and South Asian floods

    The world needs to adapt to the new normal of increasingly extreme and frequent weather events. This is at a time when economic opportunity appears to override common sense with greater numbers of people moving to and occupying disaster prone, high risk locations in the pursuit of economic opportunity. This trend particularly among the poorest is exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and making the next natural hazard a potential catastrophic disaster. We need to start to reverse these trends, this means tackling poverty and climate change and making sure we do this collectively for the benefit of the planet and future generations.

    With increasing integration of global markets and cheaper, faster and simpler communication systems, regional cooperation should not be difficult. Unfortunately regional cooperation isn’t a new idea, but is one that is often difficult to put into practice. The disparity in size and wealth between countries and competing national interests, makes it hard to find common ground. Overcoming outdated entrenched views is the greatest barrier to building trust, particularly in regards to protection and sustainable management of shared transboundary resources and global commons.

    Practical Action has long recognised that exposure to natural hazards threatens development gains and can be a key driver of poverty[1]. Therefore for regional economic development to deliver benefits of poverty alleviation, risk reduction must be central. This requires coordinated planning and management across political boundaries.

    Regional cooperation is essential when mega disasters take place. When large scale disasters occur, for example the Fukushima manmade disaster or the earthquake in Nepal the host government alone, often lacks the capacity to respond. In these circumstances regional actors can come to their assistance, with shorter transport times, they will also have language, cultural; and technological tie-in’s that can assist in disaster relief and response. But assistance is not only valid during the relief and recovery phase but is also critical for building back better, regional cooperation must not be restricted to disaster moments alone. Regional cooperation during normal times can pay dividends before the next disaster occurs. Pre-emptive exploration of joined up management mechanisms for shared transboundary resources can establish the regional cooperation channels necessary when things go wrong. For example sharing data on rainfall and water levels across a basin will benefit upstream and downstream communities, regardless of which country they live in. Communication channels to share data can reinforce preparedness as flood risk increases. And trust between upstream and downstream communities is vital if these flood early warning messages are to be believed and acted upon.

    Technology is an important enabler when responding to natural hazards and provides the means for a coordinated response. Technology can support regional thinking, planning and management to minimize current and future impacts by protecting people, properties and ecosystems across the multiple scales necessary. Technology is a powerful magnifier of human intent, allowing us to do things in ways and at scales previously not imagined. However, access to technology and its benefits are not shared fairly. All too often, the poor and the most vulnerable are overlooked as a stakeholder in the development, production and diffusion of technology or have hardly any influence[2].

    Cross Border cooperation saves lives, read more about our exploratory work in Nepal and India [3]

    What are the challenges for regional cooperation, when it sounds like such a good idea? As the growing climate change movement highlights, there is a need to enhance multi-sectoral coordination between governments, and enhance partnerships with communities, civil society and the private sector. This should be guided not only by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, but also with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. This requires the establishment of regional coordination mechanisms of which regional disaster management centres would be an integral part. These regional disaster management centres must be more than just communication and data sharing channels, they require a shared regional vision and the political support of the member states to put into practice their broader risk reduction mandate.

    Find out more…

    See more of our work on the Flood Resilience Portal. This portal provides practitioners who live and work in flood-affected communities with easy access to the resources they need to build resilience to floods. This is part of the ongoing global Zurich Flood Resilience Programme.

    Or learn about the difference made by Practical Action resilience programmes during the 2017 flash floods and landslides in Nepal and what this revealed about disaster preparedness.

     

    [1] https://policy.practicalaction.org/resources/publications/item/from-risk-to-resilience-a-systems-approach-to-building-long-term-adaptive-wellbeing-for-the-most-vul

    [2] Practical Action launched a Technology Justice call for action https://policy.practicalaction.org/acalltoaction

    [3] https://practicalaction.org/blog/programmes/climate_change/coping-disasters-beyond-the-border-nepal-india-cross-border-flood-early-warning-system/

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  • Fiji’s Vision for COP23

    September 29th, 2017

    In just over one months’ time the world will focus on the 23rd session of the Conference of Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The global gathering at which progress on combatting climate change will be debated, progress reviewed and hopefully ambitious plans to tackle the challenge will be agreed, supported with the necessary finance and support to put this ambition into practice.

    This year Fiji holds the presidency for the COP meeting[1] and hence there are hopes that the emphasis of this year’s COP will be on Small Island developing states and the unique climate challenges they face. From the irreversible impacts of sea level rise, through to the recent hurricane induced destruction in the Caribbean, small island developing states are among the most vulnerable to the challenge of climate change and the climatic variability that this heralds.

    Fiji’s vision for COP23 is:

    Fijian Prime Minister and incoming President of COP 23, Frank Bainimarama.

    • To advance the work of the COP negotiations and preserve the multilateral consensus for decisive action to address the underlying causes of climate change, respecting climate science.
    • To uphold and advance the Paris Agreement, ensure progress on the implementation guidelines and undertake consultations to design the process for the Facilitative Dialogue in 2018.
    • To build greater resilience for all vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events and rising sea levels; to enable access to climate adaptation finance, renewable energy, clean water and affordable climate risk and disaster insurance; and to promote sustainable agriculture.
    • To forge a grand coalition to accelerate climate action before 2020 and beyond between civil society, the scientific community, the private sector and all levels of government, including cities and regions. I repeat: We are all vulnerable and we all need to act.
    • To harness innovation, enterprise and investment to fast track the development and deployment of climate solutions that will build future economies with net zero greenhouse gas emissions, in an effort to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

    Fiji aims to infuse the COP with a spirit of inclusiveness, friendliness and solidarity. It aims not for finger pointing nor laying blame but about listening, learning from each other, sharing stories, skills and experiences. By focusing on the benefits of collective action Fiji believes lies our best hope to move the global climate agenda forward. Well fingers crossed!!

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  • Resilience in the face of increasing risk and uncertainty

    September 14th, 2017

    Practical Action’s strategic plan 2017-2020 states “Our vision is for a world where all people have access to the technologies that enable them to meet their basic needs and reach their potential, in a way that safeguards the planet today, and for future generations”. But with development gains being eroded by natural hazards, I sometimes wonder if we are fighting a losing battle?

    Volunteers rescuing people in Bardiya, Nepal Photo: Nepal Flood Resilience Project

    According to the Economist, there are now 400 extreme weather events every year, four times as many as in 1970[1]. A trend demonstrated vividly by the extensive flooding in South Asia and the impacts of the current North Atlantic hurricane season with the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Although Practical Action does not work in developed countries, the fact that cities in the United States, cities with planning agencies, building regulations and investment in mitigation, have been devastated by natural hazards demonstrates the increase in climate risk for communities in the developing world, that lack similar government capacity and struggle with limited budgets.

    In a world of increasing risk, resilience is a useful concept to explore the capacities, assets and behaviours that people, their communities and the societies in which they belong, need to be resilient to shocks and stresses. But resilience itself as an outcome of development, may be foolhardy to pursue.

    Practical Action recognises that technology is a key enabler of human development, that technological innovation has the power to enable a better world. Technology can advance the adaptive capacity of communities to cope with risk. For example a community protected by an Early Warning System have access to the information to allow them to act in advance of a flood event. As more EWS messages are received and successful responses are triggered, the community starts to learn what behaviour keeps them safe and the actions needed to limit the destruction of the flood event. Access to knowledge and information and their increased safety, nurtures experiential learning, they start to learn how to live with the flood.

    In a world in which there is no clear endpoint for development, in which resilience becomes ever more distant, enabling communities to experiment, to learn and adapt their lives and livelihoods will be vital if they are to survive and flourish. Resilience as an outcome is dangerous, it suggests an end state of resilience, whereas resilience is more dynamic. Resilience must consider the role of culture and human agency, and that the development aims of all people, communities and countries need not necessarily align to the same outcome. What builds the resilience of a farmer with a tractor may not be the same as what would build the resilience of a farmer dependent on livestock for motive power. Different vulnerabilities, different contexts, stress the need for different resilience building processes. We must stop focussing on the outcome of resilience and instead concentrate on learning from what we are doing, be brave enough to adapt when things start to diverge from the expected, and most importantly we mustn’t forget that it’s ok to learn from failure.

    [1] https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/08/daily-chart-19

    Find out more…

    See more of our work on the Flood Resilience Portal. This portal provides practitioners who live and work in flood-affected communities with easy access to the resources they need to build resilience to floods. This is part of the ongoing global Zurich Flood Resilience Programme.

    Or learn about the difference made by Practical Action resilience programmes during the 2017 flash floods and landslides in Nepal and what this revealed about disaster preparedness.

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  • Ecosystems underpin Sustainable Development

    June 30th, 2017

    There is incredible generosity in the potentialities of Nature. We only have to discover how to utilize them. E. F. Schumacher

    Practical Action have just attended the 11th international conference on Community Based Adaptation (CBA) a global platform of practitioners at which Practical Action country staff can share lessons learned and knowledge from our projects while also networking, sharing and exchanging ideas with practitioners working around the world. This year staff from Nepal, Bangladesh and Peru[i] were able to attend the conference, joined by two staff from the UK.

    This year the CBA took place in Kampala, Uganda. The conference lasted for three days and was attended by more than 300 participants from over fifty countries. The theme of this year’s conference was Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA), a theme that would ring true to our founder Dr Fritz Schumacher who spent his life highlighting the fundamental interdependency between human existence and a healthy planet.

    The conference brings together an incredibly vibrant community of practitioners, and in its 11th year builds on over a decade of shared learning. One piece of common understanding is that climate change is happening now and is impacting the poorest the most. Those whose daily lives balance precariously on the frontlines of numerous threats many of which are exacerbated by climate change. Therefore a key driver for CBA practitioners is that we have to act quickly to reduce this threat.

    One cost effective way we can do this is to utilise the potential of nature and this is the basis of EBA. EBA is the conservation, sustainable management and restoration of natural ecosystems in a way that helps people adapt to climate change, coupled with people’s wise management of these natural components to ensure their preservation, to support the wellbeing of current and future generations. The key element is that ecosystems enhance the adaptation capacity of communities and community action protects the ecosystem services upon which they depend.

    Healthy ecosystems underpin people’s wellbeing and can help them adapt to climate change in four fundamental ways;

    The rapidity of climate change relative to the speed at which natural adaptation, otherwise known as evolution, takes place is challenging existing capacity to adapt. The exposure of people, their communities and societies to climates not experienced during their lifetime, or reflecting the period over which their complex wellbeing strategies have developed is placing new challenges on natural and human systems to adapt. Not only with the pace of adaptation required, but also in a way that can anticipate the uncertainty that the future will undoubtedly bring.

    CBA combined with EBA offers huge potential to reduce people’s vulnerability to a range of climate change impacts and provide significant co-benefits for biodiversity and people, especially those most vulnerable to climate change. We need to overcome any existing conflict between the two approaches, and then scale up from the tens of thousands to the tens of millions as rapidly as possible.

    [i] Unfortunately our Peru colleague was unable to join us although her paper was presented by Chris Henderson in her session on day two.

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  • Flood Resilience in Practice the potential for gaming

    June 27th, 2017

    In June 2017 at the 11th international conference on Community Based Adaptation (CBA11) Practical Action and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Environment and Disaster Management (EDM) program collaborated to present a session on Community Based Adaptation exploring with practitioners the linkage between flood risk and heathy ecosystems, using a game. This game builds on Practical Action’s extensive experience on flood risk management, early warning systems and participatory flood resilience building, combined with WWF’s expertise on ecosystem and nature based approaches. The session was well aligned with the conferences objective to harness natural resources and ecosystems for adaptation, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable those least responsible for the global challenge of climate change.

    To introduce the session Anita Van Breda from WWF, introduced the Flood Green Guide. A guide developed in partnership with USAID Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to support using natural and nature-based methods for flood risk management.

    We had a total of 59 people plus rapporteurs and facilitators at our session. This group was very diverse so to ensure each game group was made up of a mix of experienced and less experienced practitioners we undertook a few ice breaker activities. The final activity asked them to line up from least to most experience in regards to climate change adaptation based on the number of years they have been working in the field, they then numbered off from 1 to 5 to create five groups made up of experienced and less experienced members.

    The aim of the game is of course to win by gaining the highest score. To achieve a high score the group need to reduce losses from flood events and manage the river basin for the triple objectives of social, environmental and economic wellbeing. However, as well as having fun, and 98% of the participants reported that they had fun, we are also trying to impart some key lessons. By playing the game participants learn how to integrate social, environmental and economic considerations into disaster recovery, reconstruction, and risk reduction programs, specifically;

    • How natural capital and ecosystem services combined with more traditional approaches can build resilience to floods.
    • How to make the difficult trade off decisions between different mitigation options, hard infrastructure versus soft ecosystem based approaches and the implausibility of a one size fits all approach
    • How to build the soft capacities and skills needed by stakeholders to enable them to do this.
    • Highlight the diversity of actors and the challenge of bringing these actors together as a single river basin management institution, the idea of the river basin commission.

    Each group of 9 to 10 people was asked to form a river basin commission and to decide among the groups the role they would play. Ideally the group should be made up of a mix of government, private sector and communities, with representation across these broad groups including upstream, urban and downstream communities, national and local government, etc. The groups then elected a chairperson and a treasurer. The commission were then asked to make plans and implement these in rounds based on a map detailing a hypothetical river basin. As background they are informed that the river basin is highly susceptible to floods due to maritime location, mountainous watershed and high precipitation levels.

    The game is played in rounds representing a year, which includes the commission planning their annual activities based on their available budget, implementation of the plan, the arrival of the annual flood and responding to the consequences of the flood event.

    https://youtu.be/mypkJo-nk3o

    We were only able to play two rounds but provided enough time for a question and answer session at the end. One participant raised a very valid question on the validity of game playing to influence policy and practice. Game playing can provide multiple benefits in the challenging international development process. Firstly by playing a game such as this you can bring together diverse stakeholders who often do not work together. Role playing different roles allows local stakeholders to view problems from an alternative perspective. Most importantly allows different stakeholders to explore critical issues in a natural environment, this not only promotes understanding of different perspectives but can also aid in defusing future conflict.

    Following good development practices we asked all participants to fill in an evaluation form. Overall they enjoyed playing the game and found the interactive learning approach refreshing. They provided some excellent feedback on how to improve the game, such as thinking about upstream downstream linkages more, make the scoring system simpler, and provide fewer options for flood actions. Many participants commented on the economic centric decision making, although they recognised that this is a common problem. One key learning from the CBA conference is that if we continue with economic decision making then the social and environmental costs will continue to be overlooked. All participants enjoyed the participatory nature of the game, the fact that they were involved and were able to engage with their colleagues in developing their annual plan. This facilitated sharing of knowledge and experience and contribute to collaborative learning.

    Keep following the Practical Action colleagues at the conference and come back for a daily update.

    @Chris_P_Hen, @RiganAliKhan, @Sunilnpl, @gehedragurung and @ColinMcQuistan

    For more on the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Environment and Disaster Management (EDM) program: http://envirodm.org/

    The 11th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change (CBA11) https://www.iied.org/11th-international-conference-community-based-adaptation-cba11

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  • 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction

    May 27th, 2017

    The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) takes place every two years. The platform is the foremost gathering on reducing disaster risk and building the resilience of communities and nations. The platform is convened by the UNISDR the United Nations office for DRR[1] and this year was hosted by the government of Mexico. More than 4,000 participants and delegates from over 180 countries attended the meeting. This is a rich and diverse group of actors that bridge the worlds of humanitarian aid and development, representing, indigenous communities, gender groups, the disabled, academia, research, the private sector and civil society organisations.

    Practical Action had a team from Nepal, Peru and the UK attending the meeting and we contributed our practical expertise to a number of events. On days one and two Gehendra Gurung participated in the multi-hazard early warning conference sharing experience of our work in Nepal. Early Warning Systems (EWS) are a critical tool to inform local people as well as national and regional institutions about risk. Our innovative systems that link appropriate technology to deliver EWS to the poorest and most vulnerable, provide not only advance warning of the peril, but also contribute to learning about the dynamics of the hazard event, allowing appropriate and timely response. EWS are a critical component of risk informed planning and action.

    On day two of the conference Practical Action and Zurich insurance as representatives of the Global Flood Resilience Alliance participated in an official side event presenting progress on developing tools for measuring resilience and the forensic analysis of post events. This is part of our work with Zurich Insurance along with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Institute of Applied Systems and Analysis (IIASA) and the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center at the Wharton School. I presented the lessons learned from the use of the Flood Resilience Measurement Tool. The tool has been piloted by alliance partners in over 75 communities in 9 countries selected based on their flood risk.

    Michael Szönyi from Zurich Insurance presented lessons learned from the use of the Post Event Review Capability (PERC) tool in 9 countries. The tool is a post event tool to learn making recommendations to address things that went wrong, strengthen things that went well, notifying leverage points that reflect actionable, feasible, equitable and just actions that benefit the most vulnerable.

    On the final day Pedro Ferradas presented on the Ignite stage. He shared lessons from the recent destructive Peru floods of 2017. This session highlighted the need for effective representation especially of the poorest and most vulnerable in risk reduction and most importantly in post event reconstruction. We must ensure we do not lock in risk by repeating the mistakes of the past. Critical to this is not only participation from the local population, but recognition and respect for local and traditional knowledge. They may not be able to articulate risk factors using scientific or technical terminology, but they know how local conditions shape the underlying risk environment.

    The global platform was an inspiring event despite the scale and diversity of DRR challenges articulated. The platform is an inspirational market place of knowledge, skills, ideas and passion. However we still have a lot to do. Climate change is exacerbating existing risk and continuing unsustainable developments continue at a greater pace than risk reduction measures. So despite progress the risk reduction task grows with each day.

    To respond to these challenges we need to bring everyone into the discussion. Unsustainable development can only be tackled if we include environmental and social factors in decision making processes currently dominated by political and economic factors. So the excessive focus on governments and UN organisations on the plenary panels is a worry trend supporting a continuation of the status quo. These sessions are the key opportunities to influence the outcome document of the platform. Therefore the same debates are repeated. The limited panels limits the inputs and fails to recognise the value add of the very diverse audience. Let’s hope that Switzerland as host of the next global platform in 2019, can learn from the successes and limitations of the Mexican event. Some suggestions on how to do this include;

    • Break down the panels, be more inclusive of the diverse stakeholder present at the global platform. Too many panels were dominated by representatives of parties and UN agencies. Give space to the private sector, indigenous peoples, community representatives and civil society among the many other actors that can make a valid contribution to disaster risk reduction.
    • Centrality of the poorest and most vulnerable. I was surprised at the absence of community survivors in the panels, we need to learn from the mistakes of the past and hear these human stories to ensure they are not repeated.
    • Ensure every panel is at the very least gender balanced. Too many formal sessions had token female participation. The organisers need to do more to ensure gender balance at the next event.
    • The importance of EWS must be maintained in Switzerland, but there is a need to build on the utility of EWS to inform risk planning, preparedness and response, to recognise the needs to review their effectiveness post event, to ensure they are delivering for the most vulnerable and at risk. End to End EWS are vital, but experience from Latin America indicates this is the area receiving the least investment.
    • Recognise the power of alliance organisations. The Global Network for Disaster Reduction[2] (GNDR) celebrated its tenth birthday in Mexico, and as an umbrella organisation provides a mouthpiece for larger constituencies to engage in the platform in an effective and practical way.
    • Pay attention to the underlying messages that the venue delivers. The Moon Palace arena and hotel was a well serviced and secure location. But the massive development failed to reinforce messages of sustainability and appropriate development. Rather epitomising excessive consumption, ignorance of social and environmental sustainability and inequality of consumption in a resource finite world

    [1] www.unisdr.org

    [2] http://gndr.org/

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  • UNISDR 2017 Global Platform

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    May 23rd, 2017

    Risk reduction must deliver for the poorest and most vulnerable

    In Sendai, Japan, a location that had been devastated by the eastern pacific Tsunami and subsequent Fukushima nuclear accident, the world came together in March 2015 to sign into force the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015-2030. This framework aims to influence the policy and practice of national governments to reduce their risk, by providing practical guidance on how to reduce risk, how to prepare for disasters in cases where risk cannot be totally removed and to provide targets and indicators to monitor progress.

    This week in Cancun Mexico the world gathers for the first time since Sendai to report on progress. Cancun will greet world leaders, representatives from governments, the private sector, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and community members. Practical Action is taking advantage of this gathering to demonstrate our expertise in community flood protection and will share our key lessons learned with this global audience.

    What are our key messages for this community? Practical Action along with our partners the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Zurich Insurance Company and the International Institute for Applied Systems and Analysis (IIASA) will be presenting the lessons learned from our field projects at a number of key events. The messages that we will share with the global community are as follows;

    • Development must be restricted in hazardous zones and incentives for development that lead to urbanisation of risk areas should be avoided.
    • Investment is necessary in large scale flood risk management practices, including soft measures such as, erosion control, river widening, natural retention areas and hard construction approaches, levees, reservoirs, dams and weirs particularly to protect critical areas.
    • Nature based approaches to flood management are often overlooked, but healthy natural environments provide numerous services that help to reduce the impact of floods, from healthy natural habitats increasing infiltration and slowing run off, to a combination of nature based with more traditional flood mitigation measures to enhance the protection and reduce the investment and maintenance costs of hard infrastructure.
    • Hard infrastructure protection measures should be prioritised to protect essential infrastructure such as hospitals and power stations, etc. but must avoid incentivising the construction of new assets in the flood plain.
    • Pre-event financial options, including investment in pre event response measures, insurance, social support, and innovative risk transfer mechanisms are vital and must incorporate and respond to learning from advances in early warning systems and impact forecasting.
    • Post disaster streamlined access to these prearranged lines of credit and dedicated flood relief programmes, to ensure reconstruction can start promptly, while learning from the event to build back better.
    • Knowledge sharing and facilitation to all stakeholders is vital, but in particular honest reporting of lessons learned to communities enhances their self-protection and nurtures human agency. No one can be 100% resilient to flooding but by working in concert with neighbours benefits can be delivered at multiple scales.

    Strengthening community flood resilience requires a process this is multi-scalar, multi-sectoral and involves numerous actors; it cannot be achieved by governments, organisations of individuals acting alone. Flood risk reduction must be an integral part of policy making, planning and implementation. Effective flood risk reduction requires mutual partnerships with governments, private sector and civil society working alongside communities. With increased ability to learn, adapt and cope with shocks and stresses, communities can protect and build on development gains that they have already made, prevent their erosion, reverse accumulating losses and address the effects of underlying vulnerability that hold back their development potential. Floods are a natural phenomenon, and attempts to control flooding have proven short lived and futile, with climate change exacerbating the risk of floods we need to get smarter about our environment and learn to live with floods.

    http://www.unisdr.org/conferences/2017/globalplatform/en
    The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
    http://www.unisdr.org/

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  • An Innovative approach to measuring community resilience to flooding

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    April 27th, 2017

    The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance Measurement Framework

    In 2013 the Z Zurich Foundation initiated a global alliance of partners to understand what builds resilience to flooding. This alliance has taken an innovative approach – linking academic insights, humanitarian and development sector capabilities, as well as Zurich’s skills and knowledge – to enhance community resilience to flooding. The alliance includes the Zurich Insurance Company, the Z Zurich Foundation, IFRC, Practical Action, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center.

    The alliance have developed a measurement framework and corresponding tools in an attempt to measure flood resilience in communities in developed and developing countries around the world.

    Communities are struggling to come to terms with resilience what allocation of their limited resources will build resilience?

    The tool involves measuring the degree to which communities are endowed with the five capitals, described in the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (SLF). These capitals characterize community assets and the complementary capacities that sustain and improve communities’ wellbeing. Theoretically, by tracking the capitals pre- and post-event, it is possible to observe how development, disasters, and risk management activities within the community are eroding or supporting wellbeing. Having time series information means the five capitals could be measured after a hazard event to assess how they were impacted or utilized to cope and recover. A grounded set of metrics could help to guide the exploration of potential sources of resilience and test their effect on outcomes in order to contribute further evidence to our understanding of resilience.

    The complexity of resilience leads to a huge diversity of elements which can be measured, and raises a number of questions about process and outputs:

    • At what stage is measurement appropriate?
    • Do we measure resilience ex ante during a state of normality which means a focus on ability to manage risk, or only ex post, which means a focus on ability to cope and recover?
    • Can we give an absolute value to a state of resilience or only one that is relative to a baseline or benchmark?

    In light of these challenges, we are looking for ways to explore the interdependencies among the capitals themselves, and between the capitals and other elements of the framework. It will be important to measure the capitals but also to understand the relationships among them, such as how social assets, or the wider governance context frame access to particular resources which may appear plentiful in the wider community but are inaccessible for a large portion of the population due to social barriers. We are aware that the mere existence of an asset does not necessarily imply that it is being used effectively to manage risk or enhance wellbeing. Conversely, the lack of an asset may be indicative of vulnerability, which raises further questions around the weighting of the measurements. By adopting a standardized approach, we are hoping to learn more about resilience, and how this knowledge can be applied in practice to enhance resilient wellbeing.

    We are currently testing the tool in a number of communities in different countries that have varying livelihoods and asset bases and face different flood typographies. This will help to test and refine the tool, and provide learning on the methods and processes. Representation of the results of the measurement tool for two different communities, is captured below.

    Although they score differently, one with strengths in the social and natural capitals (red) while the other (green) in the human and physical capitals which community will be more resilient to a flood event? This is something we are starting to unpack as we investigate the results coming from the community measurements.

    Further reading:

    • http://www.measuringresilience.org/pdfs/ODI_report.pdf
    • https://www.zurich.com/en/corporate-responsibility/flood-resilience/measuring-flood-resilience
    • https://policy.practicalaction.org/policy-themes/disaster-risk-reduction/resilience/measuring-resilience
    • http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/13279/1/Development%20and%20testing%20of%20a%20community%20flood%20resilience%20measurement%20tool.pdf
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