This new report from GHA provides evidence of a challenge that disaster risk reduction (DRR) practitioners have been highlighting for many years: despite increasing public and political recognition of the need for a focus on DRR, reinforced by countless high level statements and commitments, the international community has been unable to provide the funding needed to sufficiently reduce risk in developing countries.
Although quantifying the total investment needed to reduce risk to an acceptable level is difficult and context-specific, the growing humanitarian caseload indicates that current DRR investment is insufficient. Global dynamics, such as climate change, urbanization and environmental degradation, are increasing society’s disaster risk, and disasters are eliminating wealth faster than it is produced (as reported in the 2011 Global Assessment Report) which shows that greater investment is needed in mainstreaming DRR within sustainable development.
Due to the increasing need for disaster relief, humanitarian donors appear to better recognize the importance of DRR, and attempt to support it as best they can through their limited funds. This approach is inadequate in the long-term. Governments and their development partners should firstly prevent as much risk as is cost efficient, mitigate or transfer what they can of the remaining risk and then, recognizing that there will always be residual risk, prepare for it. Prevention and mitigation are primarily long-term development issues, while preparedness spans both humanitarian and development concerns. Yet in many cases, due to a lack of development investment in DRR, humanitarians are trying to fill gaps across the DRR spectrum. Predictable financing for achieving long-term DRR goals needs to come from development sources.
The report highlights that the negligible part of ODA that is dedicated to DRR is rarely focused on those countries which should be given priority as determined by an assessment of risks and needs. While recognizing that donors tend to have countries and/or regions of interest for a number of reasons, and that operational settings are challenging in some high-risk countries, the humanitarian principals of impartiality and neutrality should guide ODA for DRR: human and societal risk should therefore drive prioritization. Conflict and fragile states add an additional dimension of complexity, but recent efforts to better understand and implement disaster risk management in insecure contexts are showing promise.
Preparedness for response deserves special attention as it provides an opportunity to link humanitarian and development efforts. Yet in the current world of bifurcated aid structures, this potential for linkage is actually a liability, with preparedness often falling between humanitarian and development budget lines. A broader resilience approach, as advocated by a number of leading donors and agencies, aims to reduce vulnerability to all potential shocks, even those that are highly uncertain, while at the same time fostering socioeconomic growth which in turn further increases resilience. However, unless the current systems can find a better way to work together without creating yet another budget line, support for resilience will be challenged.
Comprehensive DRR aid tracking and monitoring is critical to successful implementation, results reporting, and to avoiding overlap of efforts across sectors. A sound framework for tracking DRR financing is not yet in place. As the report indicates, the quality of data reported on disaster-related aid needs considerable improvement. A major bottleneck in quantifying the resources dedicated to DRR within humanitarian or development aid is the lack of standardized definitions for recording such investments. The Hyogo Framework for Action Mid-Term Review in fact calls for increased standard-setting and development of tools and guidelines for DRR-sensitive planning and budgeting.
This lack of standards has meant that DRR has not been identified as a core sector or crosscutting issue in most aid providers’ accounting and reporting systems, and in some cases has resulted in inaccurate reporting using multiple definitions/criteria. There is also a lack of accounting procedure for direct investments in DRR, as well as for quantifying DRR investment components in related sector projects. In order to effectively target mechanisms that address the quality and quantity of ODA and other cooperation flows, a thorough review of aid architecture from a DRR perspective is needed. GFDRR and UNISDR have already begun tackling this challenge through a disaster aid tracking initiative.
Governments are ultimately responsible for the safety and well-being of their citizens. As GHA’s new report highlights, accessible information on domestic spending on DRR is generally limited. Standardization of global DRR finance tracking and budgetary definitions would naturally permeate national budgetary systems. However, we must be cognizant that in low-income countries, where national budgets are limited and resources must be distributed amongst many competing priorities, international support is needed to initiate the path of resilient growth. As a country becomes more resilient, disaster losses decrease, ensuring more domestic resources to invest in further growth and resilience.