Children on the frontline: children and young people in Disaster Risk Reduction

Children on the frontline: children and young people in Disaster Risk Reduction

Disaster Risk Reduction: children speak out

Children and young people are particularly vulnerable to disasters - one in every three survivors of the Indian Ocean Tsunami were women or children under the age of 15. However, research has shown - see the 2007 UNISDR report and campaign, ‘Disaster Risk Reduction Begins at School’ - that children and young people do have an active role to play in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and should be viewed as agents of change rather than just victims.
This survey aims to ensure that the voices and roles of children, are heard and taken into account in future assessments of the 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) – the ten-year framework for building the resilience of communities and nations to disasters – and DRR implementation. The authors also intend for this report to act as a pilot for incorporation into future surveys, so that children and their voices would become a regular part of the civil society mechanism that would monitor the HFA and DRR governance structures.

The survey was fashioned around the HFA’s five key priorities: Governance;  Risk Assessment, Monitoring and Warning; Knowledge and Education; Underlying Risk Factors; Preparedness and Response.

The authors identified four key conclusions borne out of the survey:

  • children and young people are not satisfied with what is being done to prevent or mitigate disaster risks. They are convinced that including them, as young citizens, would be helpful, both in building their own resilience and improving DRR governance and resilience of the community as a whole
  • adults are not satisfied either. Respondents believe that while some progress is being made to include children in DRR, this is only happening to a very limited extent. Achieving success with the HFA priorities requires concerted efforts on the part of all stakeholders, particularly children, to support and protect the wellbeing of present and future generations
  • although an enabling environment for children’s inclusion is lacking in many cases, the survey indicates that attention to knowledge and education is a top priority. For children and young people, education and knowledge is the foundation for more effective achievement of all remaining HFA goals. The survey also found that education alone is not enough. If children and young people are to actively contribute to DRR, they need encouragement and technical support
  • the survey found that in countries where the contribution that children can make to DRR is embraced, HFA progress is more likely than in countries where cultural attitudes prevent children and young people from speaking out. In societies where children and young people are not granted access to quality education and pertinent information, nor encouraged to become responsible young citizens, HFA goals will remain unmet.

The authors determine that good governance is the foundation of DRR. It establishes the principles and structures for ensuring inclusive participation, ownership and accountability in implementing the HFA – including children and young people. Better governance will also prioritise education – an informed and motivated citizenry will ensure good governance on DRR, and good governance will thrive on the input of proactive citizens.

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