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Address poverty and vulnerability and their structural causes

Disaster-related risks come not only from direct exposure to natural hazards, such as droughts or hurricanes, but also from the vulnerability of social and economic systems to the effects of these hazards. Addressing the symptoms and causes of social and economic vulnerability is therefore critical for reducing poverty, promoting development, and reducing the severity of disasters.

While those managing disaster risk recognise that equitable access to land, money, information, health care, education and decision-making are all crucial for reducing disaster risk (see priority area 4 of the Hyogo Framework for Action), few have been able to tackle the causes of vulnerability through their work. Climate change is now making this task even more difficult, as it is exacerbating vulnerability by hampering people’s access to water resources, reducing agricultural yields, changing patterns of disease, and increasing disasters risk (IPCC 2007).

While it is not the responsibility of disaster risk managers to solve all these problems, climate smart risk managers will ensure effective partners with other development factors to simultaneously tackle the drivers of vulnerability, and promote disaster risk-reducing actions. At the very least, disaster risk management interventions must not inadvertently increase vulnerability. An important aspect of this involves ensuring that interventions do not add to the problem of climate change (one of the drivers of vulnerability) by emitting unnecessary greenhouse gases or degrading local ecosystems when other – more climate-friendly – options are available. Of course, such decisions will likely involve trade-offs, but disaster risk managers will need to conduct more climate-sensitive environmental impact assessments as part of their routine approach to planning.

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