From Risk to Resilience

Ironing a shirt today for the first time in about 3 years, wearing grown up clothes makes you think grown up things. How will we get true action to reduce disaster risk in this country? I’m in Sydney for the From Risk To Resilience Summit.

This summit is part of a process to design an action plan that will help implement the National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework. There’s about 250 people here. It feels like old home week, seeing many familiar faces, some for the first time in 3 years. There are many new faces as well, which is fantastic to see the diversification of the sector. If this event was held 25 years ago when I first started in this work, there may have been 20 people around a table, most of them in uniform, talking about producing a new pamphlet.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework is excellent guidance document that gets to the heart of disaster risk. It acknowledges the role of human impacts and costs of disasters plays in driving the need to reduce risk. To make this happen, it needs action plans. The first National Action Plan was probably more of a catalogue of activities than a plan per se. There is a lot of goodwill, capacity and activity in this area.

When we talked about what we wanted to see in a second action plan, we really want a focus on people who are more at risk, in the riskiest places. Those people who don’t have the capacity to move out of harms way, or have the capacity to prepare for disaster, or recover from disaster. Beyond this, we really thought about the boring stuff. This stuff is not exciting or annouceable or marketable, but its so important. We need to get the supporting architecture right, a coordinated approach to community-based resilience, and risk reduction efforts, setting of targets to we can be clear where our efforts are going, and transparent reporting of these efforts, so those that are relying upon us the understand these issues, and facilitate this action, can understand what we are doing, where we are doing, and how we are going. Getting the basics right. It’s like I recall Kathleen Tierney once saying, the reason why the best improvising jazz artists, such as Miles Davis, make it sound so great is that they have an excellent grounding in music theory and practice. They have the basics right, so they can build effortlessly off it.

We’ve got to get this right. People want to get on and live their lives, to live good, joyful, prosperous lives. Disasters mess with people’s lives, its not just weeks and months, its years into decades. This is what we want to do, so that disasters become a bump in the road for people and not a car crash with all its intendant trauma and hard work.

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