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When disasters and conflict collide: uncovering the truth

Combating disasters in contexts affected by conflict and violence should be a priority for national governments and the international community. 58% of deaths from natural-hazard related disasters occur in the top 30 most fragile states, and numbers of people affected are often unreported or vastly under reported. 

Investment in disaster risk reduction (DRR) in conflict-affected contexts is critical to achieving the global targets of Agenda 2030 and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Yet multilateral and bilateral investments in (pre-disaster) risk reduction in conflict-affected contexts have been slow to materialise. For every $100 spent on response in fragile states, only $1.30 was spent on DRR between 2005 and 2010.

Disasters associated with natural hazards hit those living in fragile and conflict-affected contexts hardest. Yet the DRR policy, programming and financing architecture has failed to consider conflict. DRR practice is based on a set of assumptions that need to be critiqued to advance progress for the most in-need; those living in contexts where disasters and conflict collide.

The internationally agreed framework for action on disasters – the Sendai Framework – can only be achieved by developing an evidence base, policy and practice on how best to pursue DRR in contexts affected by conflict, and by redirecting spending to those contexts. This requires challenging our existing assumptions, and better understanding the relationship between hazards, vulnerability, exposure and typologies of conflict. In short, it requires uncovering the truth about what happens when disasters and conflicts collide.

Three years into the implementation of Agenda 2030, it has become clear that without a significant reorientation in the way we understand and act on the complex interplay of disasters and conflict, the international community risks failing to deliver on its ambition to ‘leave no one behind’.

By generating an evidence base and accelerating a long-overdue conversation, we seek to answer the question: what DRR action is viable and appropriate in fragile and conflict-affected contexts? Doing so by our target end date provides enough time to re-orientate current approaches to managing disaster risk and to influence the remaining 10 years of the Sendai Framework – and ultimately the outcomes of Agenda 2030.


Katie Peters

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