What have we learned so far?
Introduction: Why building resilience is important and what the BRACED programme does about it
The UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) established the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme to help build resilience and adaptation to climate extremes and disasters in 13 countries1 across the Sahel, East Africa and South and Southeast Asia. BRACED aims to assist up to 5 million people whose situations make them vulnerable, to become more resilient to climate extremes. Project implementation began in 2015.
Why is building resilience important in BRACED countries?
The countries covered by the BRACED programme have been disproportionately affected by climate-related disasters including droughts, floods, landslides and storms. These disasters slow down development, exacerbating poverty and hunger. Risk management is getting more complicated as the climate becomes more erratic, and its impact on people worsens. In some of the countries, conflict has a multiplying effect on the challenges.
How does BRACED view resilience?
BRACED understands ‘resilience’ as a set of interrelated capacities that are necessary to survive and thrive in the face of these challenges – the capacity to adapt to, anticipate and absorb climate extremes and disasters. Improvements in these capacities can lead toward transformative changes in systems and relationships that can ensure longer-term resilience.
The 3As are a way to understand and track resilience building to varying threats across diverse contexts.11
- Anticipatory capacity is the ability of social systems to anticipate and reduce the impact of climate variability and extremes through preparedness and planning.
- Absorptive capacity refers to the ability of social systems, using available skills and resources, to face and manage adverse conditions, emergencies or disasters.
- Adaptive capacity is the ability of social systems to adapt to multiple, long-term and future climate change risks, and also to learn and adjust after a disaster.
Development and resilience
Development and resilience are closely linked. Resilience features in four major international frameworks agreed in 2015 and 2016: the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the World Humanitarian Summit framework.
Disaster risk and poverty15
At the national or regional level, the determinants of disaster risk are similar to the determinants of poverty. The quality of governance systems, for example, explains to some extent why, since 1990, almost 90 percent of mortality in internationally recorded disasters has occurred in low- and middle-income countries. Faced with the same numbers of people exposed and hazards of the same severity, lower-income countries with weaker governance systems will have significantly higher mortality rates. For a similar level of exposure – to a Category 3 cyclone, for example – around 50 percent of the variance in mortality risk is explained by vulnerability. At the community, household and individual levels, the relationship between disaster risk and poverty is more complex. The poorest people often live on marginal urban land at risk from floods and landslides, and in drought-prone rural areas, meaning they are commonly the most exposed to climate extremes. The poorest also tend to be more vulnerable to these extremes, lacking access to the information and support services needed to prepare for and respond to disasters, or the ability to protect their assets or take out insurance to spread risk. Yet the relationship between poverty and disasters is complicated by the effect that disasters themselves have on the poor. The effects that the death of family members have on the rest of the household are significant and include loss of earnings. However, disasters also affect the incomes, assets and savings of survivors, which can lead to long-term setbacks in health, education and employment opportunities through disadvantages such as malnourishment and missed schooling.
Evidence from a number of studies at different scales suggests disasters can cause impoverishment and contribute to poverty traps, as poor people are forced to sell or consume the few assets they have, deepening their poverty and undermining their human capital. This, in turn, undermines people’s capacity to anticipate and absorb the impacts of subsequent extreme events or adapt to deal with future shocks, creating a cycle of vulnerability.
Resilience is usually seen as a means to move towards other goals, such as prosperity and security, rather than an end goal in itself. It features in four major international frameworks agreed in 2015 and 2016: the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the World Humanitarian Summit Framework.16 In development terms, resilience is seen as a key ingredient of successful progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, where it is mentioned in relation to a number of goals linked to poverty reduction, built infrastructure and human settlements, agricultural production and vulnerability to climate extremes and disasters.
The BRACED programme
To support those who are most vulnerable and marginalised, it is essential to work in partnership with communities and other resilience practitioners to address identified risks and vulnerabilities. However, there are limits to what can be achieved working simply at a local level. Resilience building within BRACED also relies on action by others, often at national and international level. Many BRACED projects have formed strategic partnerships to link the efforts of organisations working at different levels.
Government investment in disaster risk reduction is often based on economic valuations, i.e. the value of assets protected by a certain intervention. Such analyses often result in investments that unfairly benefit wealthier people and large businesses because they fail to take account of the negative impacts of climate shocks and stresses upon well-being. For example, a poor person may be more severely affected by the loss of their home than the owner of a more valuable property who is protected by insurance or savings.17
The BRACED IRISS project in South Sudan has learned about the length of time required to build relationships with local community leaders, as well as how important it is as a means to build trust. Starting at the local – rather than national – level ensures better understanding of the local context.
Investments in local resilience are more likely to be effective if they take account of wider systems including geography, markets, policies and financing systems, as well as social dynamics and power relations at a local level.18 Practitioners can engage these different systems by forming strategic partnerships. BRACED projects were encouraged at the outset to work at different levels to help ensure buy-in and increase the likelihood of changes being sustained beyond the life of the project, as illustrated by this representation of the different levels involved in the Decentralising Climate Funds project: