Wetlands International

Steering the Policy and Practice in Disaster Risk Reduction


This September Wetlands International officially joined PEDRR, a global alliance of UN agencies, NGOs and specialist institutes which plays a vital role in steering the policy and practice in disaster risk reduction (DRR). Through this alliance, Wetlands International can effectively influence and make recommendations to the Hyogo Framework for Action and the UNISDR, the UN office which coordinates global activities on reducing the risk of disasters.

What does this partnership mean?

Over the past decade Wetlands International has brought together the science, practice and policy of ecosystem-based risk reduction programmes. As a result, we have identified natural ecosystem based solutions to reduce the risk of disasters. For example, coastal wetlands provide a natural barrier against storms and erosion; healthy river systems regulate flood waters; and mountain forests stabilize hill slopes. Through this partnership, Wetlands International can voice these solutions and ensure that the vital role of ecosystems is considered in disaster risk reduction planning.

Why do we work on Disaster Risk Reduction?

Our work on disaster risk reduction began after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, which took the lives of 230,000 people, left countless without a home or means to sustain their lives. The tsunami also left a large burden on our local offices to take action. As a result, Wetlands International investigated the environmental impact of the tsunami and its impact on coastal people. In coordination with our scientists in the field, we have gathered significant evidence and developed several tools on how to work with nature to reduce the risk of natural disasters. As part of the Green Coast Project,Wetlands International revived coastlines through the restoration of mangroves forests and other coastal wetlands. As a result we rehabilitated 1,000 hectares of mangrove and beach forest; supported sustainable development activities to 5,000 people and improved livelihoods of 60,000 people.

A Shared Vision with Tangible Results: Partners for Resilience

Our commitment to DRR has not faded as the news coverage often does. Currently we are teamed up with CARE, Cordaid, Red Cross Netherlands, the Red Cross/Red Crescent climate centre on a common goal: to transform the lives of 450,000 vulnerable people in nine countries by 2015. This is one of the largest integral community-based risk reduction programmes in history. Our success will be measured by the true harmonization of our strategies and practice on disaster risk reduction – taking into account three perspectives: humanitarian, developmental and environmental. More information.

In September, at the global conference in The Hague, we met with 60 risk-reduction practitioners from around the world as well as our project partners to conduct a mid-term review of this €40 million Dutch funded programme. The results are substantial: the project has now reached nearly 400 vulnerable communities (260,000 people) in Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mali, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Uganda. Activities include the construction of small reservoirs to improve they supply of drinking water, diversification of livelihoods as a strategy for drought, reforestation of unstable slopes, and early warning early action before disasters. Read more at Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre. Also visit the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.

The Future of Resilience: Building with Nature

While we are committed to working with humanitarian organisations on resilient communities, we are also busy with the engineering sector to identify ground-breaking approaches that work with nature, as opposed to traditional hard-infrastructure approaches that tend to ‘fight’. For example, in place of concrete seawalls, defences made of mangroves can be erected alongside permeable dams made of brushwood. The evidence shows that these combined ‘green-grey’ solutions can more effectively stop erosion and land sinking along muddy coasts. Take a look for yourself and learn how to build with nature.

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