Saturday, October 31, 2015

RES-SIM: The challenges of addressing vulnerability in scenario design

Attending the Sendai conference in March this year I was struck by the unprecedented support and inclusion for vulnerable groups, and in particular for those with a disability. There were several public forums organised at the event, aimed at drawing attention to the issue of disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction. You could argue that this campaign for recognition was successful, in that the Sendai Framework prominently promotes the needs of the oft forgotten in a disaster risk reduction (DRR) context.

"Empowering women and persons with disabilities to publicly lead and promote gender equitable and universally accessible response, recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction approaches is key" - Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2013, p. 20
Image of members of the Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Caucus on the stage at the DESA DSPD Forum 
This week the release of the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2015 by ESCAP reminds us that disability-inclusive DRR needs to be a central goal, since the outcomes for this particularly vulnerable group can be so dire. It is well documented that vulnerable groups such as the poor, women, children, the elderly, and those with disabilities suffer worse outcomes in disasters. ESCAPs own figures show that for people with a disability, the mortality rates during disasters are two to four times higher than that of those without disabilities.

So we can easily acknowledge the importance of embedding disability-inclusive thinking into all of our DRR endeavours. The challenge then becomes what does this really look like on the ground. In particular, how can we as researchers incorporate this thinking into the design of RES-SIM? If we rely on current practitioners and educators to inform the design of our system, how can we ensure that this important goal is also in their consciousness? Can we afford to wait for these important goals to become mainstream and rely on public groundswell? I think that perhaps instead we need to 'lead from the top' and ensure that the voices of the vulnerable are loudly ringing in our ears when we make decisions related to DRR. Whether that be in a local community-based project, or globally when deciding on future policy frameworks.

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