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Children to the fore in disaster risk reduction

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At Save the Children we are working more and more to ensure our work helps people both to understand and reduce their vulnerability in disasters, and how to live in a world where the climate is changing.

In short: two ongoing and important areas of our work are disaster risk reduction (DRR), and climate change adaptation (CCA).

Between 8-13 May, DRR specialists from around the world came together for the third Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, hosted by the United Nations.

Listening to children

Save the Children was there in force, to call for increased engagement with children and children’s rights when working to reduce the risks people face, of landslides, floods, droughts, earthquakes, tsunami and more.

Through the course of the week, our 18-strong delegation spoke with more than 25 government representatives from around the world, held meetings and events in collaboration with other child-centred agencies, and saw a lot of support for our two main messages:

  • Children are among the most vulnerable people in disaster situations and in the face of climate-related risks
  • Children are some of the most important stakeholders in assessing and addressing risks faced by themselves and their communities.

Children from the Philippines and Kenya participated in meetings and events and  inspired conference-goers to sit up and think about what children can contribute to the process of making their communities stronger in the face of disasters and climate change.

Involving children

Andre from the Philippines was invited to speak to the conference in the final meeting (watch the “joint summary outcomes” video here) – and made a really good case to the main meeting hall at the Geneva’s International Conference Centre.

The participation of Andre and Tricia from Philippines and Johnson from Kenya was welcomed and truly meaningful: people asked their opinions and advice, and their messages had impact.

Save the Children arranged to support Nisha and Ramashis from Bihar, India to attend to represent their peers and accompany the other young delegates – but sadly due to visa complications they were unable to take part this time.

Meanwhile in Bihar, Nisha and Ramashis can be found raising awareness about disasters and climate change among their friends and families – nothing so trivial as a visa will keep them quiet!

It was great to see such a positive reception to children’s needs and rights at the conference.

Children included

Supported by Save the Children, Plan, UNICEF, Red Cross and World Vision, the children presented a Five Point Children’s Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction, which voices priorities for action by more than 600 children from 21 countries around the world.

The charter was a great success, and was signed up to by more than 200 attendees. Save the Children and others will be working with UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in the coming months to ensure that children’s issues are recognised even more in decision-making and action for DRR.

Now we need to work to ensure that participation like this happens in a more routine fashion, and at national levels as well as international. Save the Children’s approach to DRR also aims to ensure that children’s roles are recognised in local decision making and action for DRR.

Looking ahead

The global DRR ‘community’ is ever more informed about addressing children’s unique needs in disaster situations, and drawing on their capacities to contribute to disaster risk reduction.

Save the Children praises governments and organisations who are working to involve children – but we’re not there yet.

We will continue to call for children’s participation, and for governments to uphold children’s rights to protection, survival, development, health, education and more in the face of increasing disaster risks.

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