Integrating participatory disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation to enhance community resilience in the Pacific

Funding Agency

AusAID Competitive Research Grants Program

Project Team

Name Position
Dr Kirstie Méheux, Secretariat of the Pacific Community Lead Chief Investigator
Assoc. Prof. Dale Dominey-Howes Chief Investigator
Anna Gero Research Fellow (now at UTS)

Project Details

Participatory disaster risk reduction (DRR) has become an increasingly integral approach amongst disaster management actors (government and civil society) in the Pacific as it has the potential to make projects more sustainable, empowering and effective by building community resilience to disasters. Community participation in DRR initiatives can however be a difficult thing to achieve. Previous research identified a number of challenges including limited conceptual understandings of ‘participation’, issues of trust between government and communities, and inconsistencies between policy and practice. Recent endorsement by the Pacific Disaster Risk Management Community of the need to integrate Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) into DRR adds a further layer of complexity to participatory DRR initiatives as integration of these two fields of practice is acknowledged to be difficult. Importantly however it also offers new opportunities for both fields of practice to enhance the impact of their efforts to increase community resilience by learning from each others experiences and developing new ways of working together.

To take full advantage of the opportunities and tackle the complexity of community based DRR in the Pacific research is needed. Without applied research that analyses existing practice, consistent and tangible results from integrated participatory DRR and CCA will be difficult to achieve as opportunities for learning will be lost. This has serious implications for the efficacy of the growing number of initiatives aimed at increasing community resilience to both disasters and the impacts of climate change, initiatives such as Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement), Disaster Preparedness and Risk Management (FSPI), and Pacific Community-focussed Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction (Christian World Service). Given the vulnerability of development in this region to the impacts of natural disasters and climate change, the failure of initiatives to increase community resilience would have serious implications for the sustainability of development.

To address this gap this project reviewed existing relationships and initiatives within and between participatory DRR and CCA in the Pacific, taking a small number of case studies from Fiji and Samoa to analyse in depth. The new understanding of participatory DRR and CCA that arose were used to develop a set of accessible guidelines and recommendations for use by actors engaged in activities to increase community resilience to disaster and climate change.

Key publications arising from this project included:

  • Gero, A., Méheux, K. & Dominey-Howes, D. (2011). Integrating community based disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation: examples from the Pacific. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 11, 101-113.
  • Gero, A., Méheux, K. & Dominey-Howes, D. (2011). Integrating disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in the Pacific. Climate and Development, 3 (4), 310-327.