Saturday, 11 April 2015

Sendai to the Field: Making the connection - Part 1

As practitioners observing the WCDRR from the sidelines, a common sentiment can be summed up in the question “Is this framework really going to change what we do?” Or like so many of these agreements and declarations will it remain in the lofty clouds of politics, rhetoric and academia? I would like to think that there is a practical application for the new framework and I hope to explore and contribute to that translation through this Blog.

Let’s start at the beginning. When I first got involved in DRR, back in the 90's, I had no idea that what I was doing was called DRR. The Colombian Red Cross had already been training students for more than 30 years in schools safety and I was part of it without really knowing that. In 2005, I had only vaguely heard reference the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) - starting my humanitarian carrier in a context where the topic was not the mainstream strategy it is today. A few years later, in 2008, I got to know the HFA in more detail during the introduction to my Masters - Within the first few days we had already been taken through an inspiring simulation to illustrate the practical application of the Framework. From that experience I felt that I had received a good introduction to the topic, while still in a very grounded way, orientated towards response.

The broader framework turned out to be quite a lot more complex though, alien almost to the practical aspects of reality – in essence ‘very theoretical’ I often found myself thinking. It took me some time to digest it and understand its applicability at field level. My conclusion after analysing it in detail was ‘what a great idea’, what a brilliant way to put some straight forward global priorities to what we want to achieve.  As an engineer, I found it very useful to have that clarity of vision for what I wanted to achieve through my work in DRR. The challenge was: how to translate this into very specific ideas and actions? Fortunately at that time, I discovered that there were many organizations with years of experience in the topic and I learned many things from them as I embarked on my DRR career, using the HFA as my guiding light – a set of parameters for project implementation.

Today, just weeks after the adoption of the new Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and after participating in the conference in Sendai, my big question is: how am I going to use this framework in my ongoing and future projects?

To begin to connect the new framework to my understanding of the reality I started by looking into the relation between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ priorities.  From a very pragmatic perspective, based on what I have seen in the countries where I have worked and my practical understanding of the big picture, I’m trying to put together my thoughts in a simple way that will hopefully also be useful for other humanitarian and development workers as we all endeavor to work it out. 

To be continued next week...

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