number of the world’s weather related disasters has tripled in the last
30 years. The number of people exposed to flooding has doubled since
1970. The cost of health care brings financial catastrophe to 150
million people every year. And food prices are more volatile than ever.
Citing those sobering conditions, Oxfam,
an international confederation of 17 organizations working to provide
humanitarian and development aid in 90 countries, asserts that
governments, aid organizations and the international community must
collaborate to reduce risks that now fall disproportionately on the
world’s most vulnerable populations. The Oxfam report, "No Accident: Resilience and the Inequality of Risk,"
emphasizes that vulnerability to all natural and politically induced
hazards is higher in countries with greater income inequality.
praising a growing focus on building resilience, authors of the report
worry that progress will be limited by an excessively technical
approach. They write that humanitarian and development programs have
traditionally been "designed in linear fashion, whereby specific inputs
are expected to lead to a predicted output, but this does not reflect
the complexity of dynamic and interconnected risks and uncertainty.”
They suggest flexible programs that allow planning and adaptation along
with careful monitoring and learning. They stress the need for a common
way to measure resilience.
defines resilience as "the ability of women, men and children to
realize their rights and improve their well-being despite shocks,
stresses and uncertainty.”
report also quotes Dante Dalabajan, Oxfam Program Manager in the
Philippines: "There is neither a cookie cutter nor a cookbook for
reach beyond technical fixes, the report says, "Building skills and
capacity must go alongside tackling the inequality and injustice that
make poor women and men more vulnerable in the first place. This means
challenging the social, economic and political institutions that lock in security for some and vulnerability for many...”
richest 11 percent of the world’s population generates half of all
carbon emissions, but suffers least from consequences of climate change,
for example, while Southeast Asia suffers from flood losses 15 times
greater than the wealthiest, most developed countries.
Oxfam calls recent crises a wakeup call. In Pakistan's floods in 2010 and 2011, thousands died and hundreds of thousands fled their homes. In recurring droughts in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region
in West Africa on the edges of the Sahara Desert, the report says more
people could have been saved from death and malnutrition but for delayed
or inefficient government and private response. While humanitarian aid
will always be needed in times of crisis, the report says, more focus
is needed on prevention and preparedness-categories that get only 2.6
percent of aid spending now.
In conflict-affected areas, the report says resilience requires "bottom-up empowerment.” For example, in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Agriculture
is trying to build trust through establishment of agricultural
committees that are part civil society and part government. In Colombia,
despite peace negotiations after 50 years of armed conflict, rural population displacement is high and actually increased in
2012. Access to farm fields and markets is still limited because of
land mines placed by illegal armed groups, so Oxfam and local partners
strengthened community organizations and networks as they cooperated to
identify mine sites and find routes for safe passage. They also helped
villagers develop kitchen gardens.
such efforts alone won’t create resilience, the report says, they can
start to "build stronger governance with community voices at the center,
which is a prerequisite for resilience building.” Read the report.