2030 Agenda, DRR, Grassroots Academy, Resilience

Community Practitioners Take the Stage at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction

Twenty-three Community Practitioner Platform (CPP) Members Anchor Key Activities at the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction to Ensure Grassroots Leadership is Center Staged in the Implementation of the Sendai Framework


Twenty-three representatives of grassroots community-based organizations and networks in 11 countries arrived in Cancun, Mexico, the last week of May for the first Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction held after the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR). The practitioners sought to model and monitor the incorporation of an inclusive, collaborative approach to the national implementation of disaster risk reduction (DRR) measures around the world. Community Practitioner Platform delegates, including those who traveled great distances from South and Southeast Asia as well as long-haul bus commuters from Guatemala, arrived in good humor.


Over the course of the 5-day policy meeting, delegates led and participated in a range of key activities—including private meetings with key officials, pre-conference preparatory events, side events on mainstreaming grassroots women’s groups in SDFRR and 2030 Agenda implementation, co-chairing prominent Working Sessions on SDG congruence and incorporating Indigenous knowledge and presenting at closed door Ministerial Roundtables on Economic and Sectoral Planning to implement the SFDRR. Although it was intense work, both brand new and seasoned delegates alike said they were taking home new strategies and contacts for protecting and increasing the resilience of their local communities. Vinod Menon, Founder Member of Government of India’s National Disaster Management Authority commented on the delegation’s impact on the meeting itself:


“In Cancun, the Community Practitioner Platform was the largest single civil society stakeholder group fostering the leadership and networking of grassroots women and mixed local people’s organizations as a force for localizing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) and collaboratively solving problems with their governments. By example, they showed us how to succeed in realizing the commitment to inclusive, resilient development.”
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The Community Practitioner Platform is a networking mechanism to enable grassroots community groups working to protect urban and rural poor settlements and reduce risk and vulnerability, to link and represent their own experiences and priorities directly and to dialogue with government officials. With financial support from the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR) and UNISDR stakeholder scholarships, the CPP held a Grassroots Academy and Caucus on May 22nd and May 23rd, attracting 90+ people over the two days. Participants represented the diversity of community organizations and experiences in the CPP: indigenous women leaders from Central and South America, leaders from Nicaragua and Brazil representing large cooperative networks of rural farmers, and leaders from Philippines and Peru representing urban poor people’s movements and informal settlements facing extreme weather events and disasters, and women leaders organizing for land tenure and access to basic services.


The Academy discussions covered a range of important subjects, including creating an inventory of common disaster and climate risks being faced in increasing frequency, locally-developed strategies for strengthening resilience, and methods of engaging government entities and formalizing the role of communities as partners in DRR planning and resilience building. Leaders consolidated these insights and concluded by developing and affirming key messages and joint recommendations to the Global Platform.


The next day, the Community Practitioners Platform Caucus, a cornerstone stakeholder forum designed to ensure DRR policies and implementation strategies incorporate the standpoint of grassroots leaders, featured grassroots leaders talking together with government officials responsible for disaster risk management in their countries and regions. Sharing examples of how the CPP has fostered joint risk reduction initiatives with local and national authorities in Central America and Asia, the Caucus captured valuable insights on the work and value of building long-term relationships. Particularly powerful were testimonials by government officials – including Roy Barboza Sequeira, Executive Secretary of CEPREDENAC, the Central American regional network of disaster management authorities, and Leonel Galan, Director of Integral Management for DRR for CONRED, the Guatemalan agency for disaster risk management – on how working with grassroots leaders over a period of 5-7 years has transformed their ability to understand and facilitate the formal participation of women and their community organizations in effective risk reduction. Government representatives from South Africa, Zambia and Mexico spoke from the floor about their eagerness to foster collaboration with committed grassroots groups and adapt these strategies in their context as part of the urgent need to accelerate effective local DRR.


“It is very important to have grassroots women to participate at the national level. The women from Central America – Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala — are in the frontlines doing very hard work, and, integrating it into their daily life. When you see them on the ground, you see the importance of their work.” – Leonel Galan, CONRED

The official opening day of the forum featured the side event designed by the CPP, Huairou Commission, and the World Bank, “From Sendai to the SDGs: Institutionalizing Grassroots Women’s Leadership for Greater Resilience.” Haydée Rodriguez, spoke of the experience of Las Brumas, a union of 1200 rural women’s cooperatives in the Jinotega region of Nicaragua, where women producers have been forced to innovate to provide food security and income generating produce amidst drought, floods, and other climate related changes. She described how they have become experts on rotational food production using limited land and water, which have measurably protected their members and neighbors. Yet the group must rely on advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (especially 1, 2, 5, 11) and Sendai Frameworks to legitimize women’s collective claims to resources and roles in reducing their poverty, subordination, and vulnerability to climate and disaster losses. The SFDRR is a particularly useful tool for its emphasis on local level resilience policy and programming, and principle of ensuring that knowledge on risk is not just accumulated but rather shared and applied with a diverse range of local stakeholders. Roy Barboza, Secretary General of the Central American DRR network of national agencies (CEPREDENAC) and a long-term partner of the CPP, followed Haydée, charming the audience with a heartfelt discussion of the process and gains from creating implementing relationships and formal agreements with groups like Las Brumas, Wagucha and Fundación Guatemala, to train DRM officials on the benefits and strategies of using an inclusive collaborative approach. Noting his engagement with the CPP had taken him on joint grassroots-officials missions to earthquake-struck Nepal, the Delhi Asian Ministerial Conference on DRR, and policy presentations at the Habitat III Conference in Quito, he illustrated the transformative impact of long-term (vs. tactical) relationship building.


The IGNITE stage at the Global Platform showcased the experiences of 3 Central and South American CPP members on the theme “Empowering Disaster Governance: Grassroots Women-Led Partnerships to Localize the Sendai Framework for DRR. ” Analucy Bengochea (Honduras), Relinda Sosa (Peru), and Agustina de Paz Soliz (Guatemala) illustrated how and why grassroots women living in disaster prone and poor communities have taken it upon themselves to work with and train local authorities at regular intervals to ensure that global frameworks for inclusive, resilient, sustainable development are understood and institutionalized in local governance despite the ongoing rotation of elected officials. The full presentation is available in the video below.

Asian CPP members, representing tens of thousands of organized, urban and rural community members, prepared well in advance to help UN Member States understand the contributions to be made by these in accelerating risk reduction and reducing loss and damages. Josephine “Jhocas” Castillo of DAMPA Federation in the Philippines, spoke at the Ministerial Roundtable on Economic Planning, outlining how organizations of informal settlement dwellers, across the Philippines, are participating in implementing and monitoring the multimillion dollar infrastructural projects for flood and water management. This includes upgrading sanitation and housing, and working to formalize their public roles in planning by allocating resources and monitoring these processes. Prema Gopalan, Secretary of Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) India was similarly strategic in her intervention at the Ministerial Roundtable on Promoting Coherence in Sectoral Planning. In under ten minutes, she illustrated how thousands of federated rural women farmers in drought-decimated Maharashtra were leading food security efforts. Furthermore, they have persuaded the National Rural Poverty Program to support their work and promote expanding land access for women farmers, and are forging public-private partnerships for clean energy projects that create income and assets for rural poor families and offset environmental damage. Not only did UNISDR head Robert Glasser close the session underscoring Prema’s points, but leading global policymakers for climate change held her for more details in the corridors outside.


Jhocas additionally submitted an intervention for the final conference report on behalf of the Community Practitioner Platform, which outlined grassroots women’s key messages on DRR. Her statement (full text here) notes and applauds the repeated references to community participation in decision-making and inclusive, local risk governance during the Global Platform. It also flags a worrying concern: the absence of grassroots community representation in the 5,000+ Platform attendees, outside of the delegation supported by the CPP. Here, Jhocas called on civil society stakeholder groups to ‘walk the talk’ of inclusive resilient development by shifting the composition of their own delegations and spokespeople to feature those with the most to win or lose in implementing SFDRR—namely those living and working in high risk urban and rural poor communities.

Finally, the CPP delegation was particularly proud that two of its members were chosen to co-chair Working Sessions hosted by UNISDR. Analucy Bengochea served as Co-Chair for “Cultural Heritage and Indigenous Knowledge for Building Resilience,” along with Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Relinda Sosa co-chaired the session “Achieving the Sendai Framework and SDG Targets at the Local Level.” In the latter, a lively discussion brought to fore the role of civil society in supporting government action; for example, where local government does not have the capacity to carry out a proper risk assessment, a participatory assessment done with stakeholders actually has the potential of increasing public awareness on steps for risk reduction. Community-based organizations are also often first responders in disasters, and channeling resources to them is key to ensuring resilience at the local level. Session participants agreed that grassroots women practitioners, at the front lines of action, have special insight and knowledge of community needs and opportunities; for these reasons and more, policymaking must be gender-responsive and include grassroots women in decision-making spaces to ensure effective and appropriate action.


The Cancún conference proved overall to be an important step for grassroots women leading local resilient development and local implementation of the Sendai Framework. Although hailing from diverse political contexts and facing a range of different disaster risks, leaders enumerated common challenges, such as poverty and livelihood insecurity, lack of secure land tenure, food insecurity, and the loss of clean water sources, that increase their vulnerability to disasters and impacts of climate change. These impacts in turn make it more difficult for grassroots women to carry out agricultural production, informal economic activities, and the responsibilities of everyday life. For the grassroots leaders of the Community Practitioners’ Platform, it is not an option to stand by and watch this happen. At the Global Platform, the CPP emerged as the collective voice of women living in disaster-prone areas and were recognized as such. However, there is a further need to resource, document, and evaluate community-led initiatives, and formally include community practitioners in DRR and adaptation policies and programs, so that future Global and Regional Platforms can serve as a space to showcase and collectively analyze their results.


Click here for a full delegation list.

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