Civil Society: 13 ways we increase nations' resilience

The following is a blog written by Marcus Oxley, GNDR's Executive Director. It is based on a working document that you can download here
[docx Responsibilities of Civil Society in HFA2 ]


Change is needed across society to build resilience

Adaptation and change is intrinsic to life and civilization. Achieving a substantial reduction in disaster losses will require the whole-of-society supporting many necessary changes. And society needs to change not only on individual and social behaviour, norms and values, as well as changes within government institutions, public policies and associated legislation. It also requires a critical mass of actors –state and non-state– collaborating to strengthen resilience.

Where do we start?

By recognising the many sources of resilience outside the state and engaging with a civil society that can drive the social and institutional necessary change.  Civil society organisations have well established relationships with affected communities. They know how to mobilise political commitment, raise significant local and external resources and are an invaluable source of expertise in programme design, planning and implementation at the community level.

Thirteen contributions of civil society to reinforce resilience

Globally, civil society is not just non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It includes a broad spectrum of formal and less formal organisations, citizen associations and coalitions. This diversity of Northern and Southern-based actors enables civil society to fulfil a range of roles and responsibilities towards strengthening the resilience of nations and communities. Civil society:

  • Contributes to policy making and strategy formulation at international, national and sub-national levels.
  • Supports and facilitates civic participation in the planning, implementation and localisation of DRR policies.
  • Develops innovative approaches and good practices including community-based participatory methodologies and multi-stakeholder partnerships.
  • Promotes people-centred approaches and facilitates the inclusion and participation of marginalised groups.
  • Facilitates the building of trust, social capital and relationships with the affected populations
  • Reinforces links and collaboration between formal and informal institutions.
  • Promotes and strengthens local leadership, formal and informal (including grassroots women) to increase community representation and participation.
  • Mobilises political commitment and raises significant local and external financial and human resources for resilience-strengthening interventions.
  • Provides and enables exchanges of knowledge and expertise, including connecting local knowledge with technological and scientific knowledge.
  • Strengthens accountability and transparency, including holding states to account for DRR policy duties and obligations.
  • Supports participatory assessments, monitoring and evaluation processes to measure the execution of national DRR policy programmes.
  • Strengthens policy coherence with other development actors on the ground to promote and support harmonised policy frameworks (e.g. climate change, sustainable development)
  • Advances conflict transformation and peace building at the community and grassroots level including promoting reconciliation and strengthening state-society relations.

Support to civil society essential to HFA2

The recognition of the important role(s) that civil society can play in strengthening resilience has grown since the adoption of HFA1. However, the political, institutional and legal environment in which civil society operates remains fairly limited. Accordingly, increased resources, technical assistance, and policy and institutional support to civil society should be essential elements of the post-2015 DRR framework. This will require strong political commitment by governments in terms of practical actions to protect and create space for civil society, together with core funding to support local capacity and joint actions.

Practical Actions

What governments and international institutions can do

  1. Recognise the role of civil society and community practitioners within community-driven disaster risk management strategies.
  2. Strengthen the capacities of civil society to engage in DRR policy dialogue, assessment, planning and implementation at all scales.
  3. Strengthen public–private–civil society collaboration.
  4. Invest in civil society and community practitioner networks to increase collaboration and coherence among actors.
  5. Invest in South-South and South-North knowledge and learning platforms.
  6. Create an enabling legal and institutional environment where civil society can aggregate citizens’ voices and translate them into national policies and practices.
  7. Engage civil society networks in innovative approaches to participatory monitoring and evaluation processes.
  8. UNISDR to establish a Civil Society Advisory Committee to support the implementation and monitoring of the post-2015 DRR framework.

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