Capacity Building for Disaster Risk Management

Capacity Development for Disaster Risk Management (DRM) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR):

There are a number of definitions of capacity building/development, disaster risk management (DRM) and disaster risk reduction (DRR), including the following proposed by UNISDR:

*Capacity development – “The process through which individuals, organizations and societies obtain, strengthen and maintain the capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time.”

Disaster risk management (DRM) – “The systematic process of using administrative directives, organizations, and operational skills and capacities to implement strategies, policies and improved coping capacities in order to lessen the adverse impacts of hazards and the possibility of disaster.”

Disaster risk reduction (DRR) – “The concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and manage the causal factors of disasters, including through reduced exposure to hazards, lessened vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improved preparedness for adverse events.”

Consequently, building DRM capacity can be defined as “efforts to strengthen the competencies and skills of a target organisation, group or community so that the target could drive DRR efforts, or in a broader sense development, in a sustainable way in the future” (Walker et al. 2011). 

*[While some organizations differentiate between capacity building and capacity development, Information here is drawn together from both concepts and uses the two interchangeably]

Click here to view the Strategic Research into National and Local Capacity Building for Disaster Risk Management

The concept of capacity building for managing and reducing disaster risk is highlighted extensively in the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015. The framework calls for accelerated efforts to build community- and national-level capacities to manage and reduce risk, and links these efforts to all five priority areas of action. For example:

  1. Ensuring that disaster risk reduction is a national and local priority with a strong institutional basis for implementation requires building institutional capacity through the development of policy, legislative and institutional frameworks;
  2. Identifying, assessing and monitoring disaster risks and enhancing early warning requires developing scientific, technological and technical capacities to observe, analyse and forecast disasters, and institutional capacities to integrate early warning systems into local- and national-level processes and systems;
  3. Using knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels requires supporting and building technical capacity to assess impact and vulnerability, improve monitoring and evaluation, and promote community-based education.
  4. Reducing underlying risk factors requires integrating DRR planning and capacity building into multiple sectors including the health sector (e.g. so that health care remains functional during disasters), and housing and construction sectors (e.g. to ensure structures are resistant to disasters through new building codes, standards and practices);
  5. Strengthening disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels requires equipping institutions, individuals and communities in disaster-prone areas with the necessary knowledge, skills and capacities to manage and reduce disaster risk.

A recent literature review on capacity building for DRM highlights a number of key enablers of and barriers to effective capacity building (CB) interventions:

  •  CB programmes must be locally ‘owned’ and are most effective when they are led by national actors, with a limited role for external actors;
  •  CB should relate to the local context, be rooted in a strong understanding of the country’s formal and informal institutional environment ,and should build on resident capacities;
  •  CB is not just a technical exercise – the wider political and governance environment critically affects CB success;
  •  CB requires a multi-stakeholder, multi-dimensional approach involving different levels of government, different actors and different sectors;
  •  High staff turnover impedes sustainability of CB;
  •  Donor practices can create perverse incentives for CB, particularly through the imposition of short timescales for projects and pressure to spend money quickly; 
  •  Long-time horizons are ideal for DRM CB interventions, although there is typically a key window of opportunity and momentum immediately after a disaster;
  •  Careful design is required to ensure effectiveness, including the use of needs assessments, defined objectives, Theories of Change, a comprehensive plan, and an exit strategy;  
  •  Be aware of barriers to participation in CB activities to ensure that vulnerable communities are able to participate in programme design;
  •  CB interventions should be based on equality where all the actors are on a shared learning journey.  For this reason many national governments prefer South-South approaches and triangular cooperation.

Click here to view the Strategic Research into National and Local Capacity Building for Disaster Risk Management

*Capacity development – “The process through which individuals, organizations and societies obtain, strengthen and maintain the capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time.”

*[While some organizations differentiate between capacity building and capacity development, Information here is drawn together from both concepts and uses the two interchangeably]

Disaster risk management (DRM) – “The systematic process of using administrative directives, organizations, and operational skills and capacities to implement strategies, policies and improved coping capacities in order to lessen the adverse impacts of hazards and the possibility of disaster.”

Disaster risk reduction (DRR) – “The concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and manage the causal factors of disasters, including through reduced exposure to hazards, lessened vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improved preparedness for adverse events.”