Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) has evolved as a major area among the international community to prevent, mitigate and prepare for risks such as natural hazards or pandemics. Risk factors are often linked to weak governance and lack of the security sector to manage a crisis. It is therefore fundamental to address security and justice sector reform and governance to increase prevention, mitigation strategies and preparedness. This has become evidently important during the Covid-19 pandemic. This Thematic in Practice page explores the conceptual and programmatic linkages between Disaster Risk Reduction and SSR, encouraging donor synergies in these mutually reinforcing areas.

This note is available to be downloaded in PDF format, here.

What is Disaster Risk Reduction?


Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and manage the causes of disasters, including through reduced exposure to hazards, decreased vulnerability of people and property, sustainable management of land and the environment, and improved preparedness for adverse events.

Disaster Risk management (DRM) refers to the management of disasters, rather than preparedness and response activities.Today, Disaster Risk Reduction tends to be used interchangeably with Disaster Risk Management, to refer to the anticipation, reduction and implementation of necessary resilience arrangements. While DRM focuses on the implementation of DRR, the terms are often used interchangeably and this note will address both under the term DRR.

DRR/DRM typically centre around four types of activities:

Prevention: Activities and measures aimed at avoiding disaster risks. This cluster of activities includes for example relocating exposed people and assets away from high risk areas.

Mitigation: Reduction or limitation on the impacts of hazards and related disasters are covered in Mitigation activities. This includes constructing flood defences, planting trees to stabilize slopes and implementing strict land use and building construction codes.

Transfer: Activities related to transfer involves the process of formally or informally shifting financial consequences of risks from one party to another. This allows a household, community, enterprise or a state authority to obtain resources from the other party after a disaster occurs, in exchange for ongoing or compensatory social or financial benefits provided to that other party. Insurances are a good example of these sets of activities.

Preparedness: Increased knowledge and capacities of governments, professional response and recovery organisations, communities and individuals in order to anticipate, respond to, and recover from the impacts of likely, imminent or current hazard events or conditions are part of Preparedness activities. Some examples are the development of emergency management organisations to plan and coordinate response, installing early warning systems, identifying evacuation routes and preparing emergency supplies.

Below is a list of definitions for related terms to DRR

  • Hazard: A process, phenomenon or human activity that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation.
  • Exposure: The situation of people, infrastructure, housing, production capacities and other tangible human assets located in hazard-prone areas.
  • Vulnerability: The conditions determined by physical, social, economic and environmental factors or processes which increase the susceptibility of an individual, a community, assets or systems to the impacts of hazards.
  • Disasters: A serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society at any scale due to hazardous events interacting with conditions of exposure, vulnerability and capacity, leading to one or more of the following: human, material, economic and environmental losses and impacts
  • Disaster Risks: The potential loss of life, injury, or destroyed or damaged assets which could occur to a system, society or a community in a specific period of time, determined probabilistically as a function of hazard, exposure, vulnerability and capacity.
  • Resilience: The ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate, adapt to, transform and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions through risk management.

Disaster Risk Reduction Governance, Strategies and Actors

Several actors are involved in overseeing, implementing and guiding the work on DRR. Effective governance structures are key to the success of DRR and require awareness, political will and adequate resources. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the World Bank, through its Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), are the two key international organisations supporting countries develop national DRR policy plans and platforms.

DRR strategies are the frameworks that guide risk identification, mitigation, preparedness and response. They are usually based on disaster risk assessments. A wide range of stakeholders should be included in the assessments to have a multifaceted understanding of risks and hazards. There are various types of disaster risk assessments, as well as methodologies for how to conduct them. A disaster risk assessment can be done on various levels ranging from regional to national, provincial to local. It can be cross-sectoral or sector-specific. It can also be hazard-specific or, cover small-scale and large-scale; frequent and infrequent; natural or human-based hazards. Risk assessments which use a bottom-up approach, help establish strong linkages between national and local-level community disaster preparedness and response measures.

The Sendai Framework has identified three stages for Disaster Risk Assessments. These stages are interlinked and have some flexibility in sequencing and timing. 

  • Preparing and scoping;
  • Conducting the risk analysis; and
  • Using results in DRR, DRM and development of decisions.

Disaster Risk Reduction Actors

DRR, similarly as SSR, requires a broad range of actors within a society to mitigate and work together for successful process and results. Mechanisms involve a wide array of actors and highly vary from one country to another. Typically, they would involve:

International supporting actors such as the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the World Bank, through its Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR are two of the leading actors within DRR. Other international supporting actors are for example humanitarian and development organizations, regional bodies, peacekeeping missions and bilateral donors.

It is the responsibility of national Governments to develop and support national strategies for DRR, which guide planning, implementation and resource allocation. Further, they coordinate responses, support capacity-development and legislation, as well as fund research and innovation. National actors include the Head of State, Parliament, Government, or the executive authority through a Steering Committee and other institutions such as Human Rights institutions, Ombud’s institutions and watch-dogs. Ministries such as Security and Justice Ministries, Ministry of Defence, Internal Security and Justice, Ministry of Public Health, Public infrastructure, transport are all important in this coordination and efforts.

Security Providers such as Police, Defence, civil protection, border management, customs and intelligence are all important actors in the national coordination processes.

Provincial, local and sub-national governments assert and assume local ownership, convene local actors, perform risk assessments in their communities, and support capacity developments in a local context.

Private sector, business and organizations work together with a variety of actors to support, innovate and provide services and products. Further, they drive knowledge, research and competencies in this area. Research and education institutions such as Universities, research institutes, Think Tanks, raise awareness, provide research and identify key competencies in coordination with other actors.

Civil Society participates in local and national strategies, supports vulnerable groups and communities and addresses grassroots needs. Furthermore, they may be involved in knowledge and capacity building as well as coordination with other actors.

Individuals and households participate in society-wide efforts, stay informed and remain active in case of a disaster. Media raise awareness and share information through different means to reach the whole population.

Non-state actors such as Community-based self-defence groups, non-state armed groups or Traditional and/or religious leaders, chiefs and judges can also play an important role within communities.

Why are we talking about SSR and DRR?

Both DRR and SSR requires a wide engagement and broad approach to include all relevant actors within the society for inclusive, legitimate and efficient responses.

The security sector plays a key role in the planning, management and implementation of disaster response measures.  While the police are always a primary responder, other security actors, such as the military, are often called upon due to their preparedness, capabilities and access to resources. However, the effectiveness of security sector actors in mitigating disaster effects and supporting resilience is fundamentally dependent on them functioning coherently and appropriately to support their communities. Weak security sector actors with poor governance and accountability, who are seen as predatory or disconnected from the community, are unable to serve this function effectively.  

Importantly, ongoing processes of organisational or sector reform are often disrupted during the response to national, regional or internal emergencies, undermining the continuity and sustainability of State-building, peacebuilding and conflict prevention efforts. On the other hand, disasters that significantly disrupt long running conflict dynamics can open opportunities for change by highlighting security sector fragility.

Communities have always been affected by natural hazards, but the scale of those hazards have increased due to environmental changes, including climate change. Fragile contexts in particular are easily threatened with natural or man-made risks. These contexts usually lack institutional resilience and capacity to respond relevantly and effectively. The growing need for building resilient societies has moved disaster risk reduction from being a narrow, technical field, to becoming a broader, global effort anchored in the 2030 Agenda, which promotes a people-centred approach to conflict prevention.

This note will scope the conceptual linkages between DRR and SSR, highlighting the importance of governance reform and accountability measures for deploying effective, efficient and accountable DRR measures.

Legal frameworks for security sector actors’ role in emergency response

The importance of governance and legal frameworks to regulate response and maintain oversight of the security sector cannot be overstated. In most States, the restrictions can be significant. Usually national laws only permit internal deployment of the military under states of emergency, disaster response and/or martial law. For instance in Germany, the basic law is very strict about the domestic use of the military. Article 35 permits the deployment of German soldiers only under extreme circumstances, at the request of a federal state or at the instruction of the German government in the event of natural disasters and emergency situations.

More generally, legal frameworks for the deployment of the military are part of larger emergency laws. States usually allow the armed forces to support internal security forces in cases of:

  • Serious natural or man-made disturbances of national or provincial scales;
  • Ineffectiveness of internal security forces in its response to serious threats to safety or public order;
  • Decision of war;
  • Foreign aggression.

Such provisions should ideally only be used by Heads of the Executive authorities, for limited durations and subject to scrutiny in case of needed extensions.

DRR Global Frameworks and Coordination

Efforts to regulate and mobilise efforts for DRR have been ongoing for decades. Today, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 guides international efforts for DRR.

During the 1960s the UN General Assembly adopted measures to handle severe disasters. This came after two devastating earthquakes in Iran, that killed more than 22.000 people, an earthquake in Skopje, Yugoslavia and a devastating hurricane in the Caribbean. The UN General Assembly requested assistance by Member States in the form of emergency support provision capability to natural disasters. 

In the 1970s, the UN stepped up its assistance in cases of natural disasters and created the United Nations Disaster Relief Office (UNDRO). The office coordinates relief and supports early-warning systems. This work was later strengthened by the creation of the Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator under the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

The 1990s were declared the international decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), as several disasters such as flooding, typhoons, hurricanes and locust infections hit poor countries, pushing the international community to recognise the need for reducing the impact of disasters. During this decade, the first steps to construct early warning systems started. The International Framework of Action of the IDNDR was created and the first World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction was held in Yokohama, Japan, in 1994. At the end of the Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, the world realised that a global culture of prevention was needed and the IDNDR forum provided a global platform for all concerned partners to work towards preventive measures.

In the beginning of the 2000s, an international strategy for disaster reduction was needed to move forward with the IDNDR. The 2005 World Conference on Disaster Reduction, with the Yokohama Strategy, resulted in the Second World Conference on Disaster reduction in Kobe, Japan, in January 2005. The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters was the first global framework on DRR. In 2017, the first session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction was held in Geneva to enhance awareness and share experiences for global and local implementation.

In 2015, the HFA was replaced by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which was the first major agreement of the post-2015 agenda and provides concrete actions to protect development gains from disaster risks. The Sendai Framework works in conjunction with other 2030 Agenda agreements such as the Paris Agreement on Climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development. The framework puts forward the State as the primary actor to reduce disaster risks, in collaboration with communities, the private sector and civil society.

National DRR Efforts and the Security Sector

The Sendai Framework calls for the establishment of multi-sectoral national platforms, bringing together all stakeholders involved in DRR. As seen in the previous section, most of the coordination, mitigation and coordination strategies are handled by National actors. The Sendai Framework defines the need of each national government to coordinate and gather all relevant stakeholders. As a result, the military’s role in DRR is highly varied across the world.

Law Enforcement and Civil Defence/Protection

Police services are typically one of the state’s strongest first response capabilities, and as such are deeply involved in disaster management. They, along with the health services, tend to provide the majority of government led initial disaster response. Disasters test the ability of the police services to work in partnership with communities, as preparedness is influenced by trust, and most first response is done by communities’ members. All major disasters exceed the capability of state organizational responses capability, at least in the immediate aftermath, and benefit from close cooperation between state and non-state responses. 

The maintenance of law and order can be more difficult when faced with large scale man-made or natural disasters. Typically, most types of crime are reduced during the immediate post disaster phase, as criminal activity is as disrupted by the impact of the disaster as much as are legal forms of economic enterprises. However, some types of disasters can require increased law enforcement, for example in cases where the disaster impacts on different geographical areas differently. Here law enforcement is often used to create a perimeter around the disaster affected area to reduce criminal looting (which is primarily done by outsiders and not survivors). The current global pandemic demonstrates law enforcement challenges around long duration disaster events, where state controls over individual behavior are significantly increased, but can only be enforced with the consent of the community.       

The maintenance of minimal procedural standards throughout the penal chain might be compromised. During the Covid-19 2020 crisis, protests among prisoners at risk because of the difficulty of social distancing is a good example for these additional challenges. Thousands of prisoners have been released early because of the deteriorating situation.

In the majority of countries, civilian civil protection/defence organisations have transformed into emergency management agencies with a key role in disaster management, and serve to provide central leadership, planning and coordination. They often include specialized disaster response capabilities. While more commonly found as independent agencies, or as part of ministries of interior, a number of countries place emergency management responsibilities in the military, including countries such as Israel and China.

Armed Forces

The armed forces often play an important role in  disaster preparedness and response, because they can provide a standing, personnel, logistical and planning capability. The military could be required to maintain public order in disaster and emergency situations, ensure the implementation of disaster response measures such as lockdowns, and protect critical infrastructure responsible for vital public services such as, electricity and water supply.

This role can take place at the national level as well as at the international level in the form of humanitarian disaster relief operations. The immediate response to a disaster is typically handled by the State through its national or provincial authorities. Yet, if States are unable to cope, they often turn to other States for humanitarian assistance and support in managing the crisis. Especially the military thus plays a key role in international relief efforts in providing logistics, capacity and restoring safety and security within both communities.

At the international level, the role of the military in response to international humanitarian emergencies is laid out in the “Guidelines On The Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets To Support United Nations Humanitarian Activities in Complex Emergencies”  or the Oslo Guidelines. One of the Oslo Guidelines standards is the “last resort” principle, which states that foreign military and defence assets should only be used as a measure of last resort and in a complimentary manner to other existing national relief mechanisms. The guidelines also call for basing all operations on the humanitarian imperative, as well as, maintaining the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality for all foreign military relief operations.

At the national level, the majority of national legal frameworks are restrictive regarding the deployment of the military for anything but external defence purposes, with military assets tend to be used as a last resort for disaster response. However, in many developing countries, due to resource scarcity, the military has become the first resort in times of disaster. In States characterized by lack of resources and institutional fragility, the military institution often provides access to crucial logistical resources.

This does not come without risk, in particular when the military’s added value is not leveraged in the right way. For example, while the military has significant experience setting up camps, it might have less experience administering these camps for civilian refugees or IDP population or use consultative processes that include elders and informal leaders.

Further, it is crucial to acknowledge that the effectiveness of the military’s engagement is dependent on the general trust between population and its security services. A lack of trust can significantly hamper the effectiveness of service delivery, as well as its relevance.

Informal Actors

An estimation of 80% of people living in fragile States access justice services through informal actors, such as traditional authorities and religious leaders. Similarly, in fragile contexts, there is a fragmentation of security actors, such as self-defence groups, non-state armed groups and private military companies, in addition to the State’s security forces. Those actors could play a potential role in community sensitisation campaigns about disaster mitigation strategies. They could also contribute their knowledge of local needs, cultural particularities, as well as, geographical topography to inform scenario planning. Therefore, successful disaster risk preparedness should seek engagement and integration of these informal actors into risk assessments, planning and response activities. Engaging with informal actors is also important to support the challenged presence or legitimacy of State institutions.

Example: Military Domestic Response to Hurricane Katrina 2005

During the hurricane Katrina in North America in 2005, the military played an important role in response measures.  In Louisiana and Mississippi, the National Guard mobilized some 22.150 guards, plus 6500 redeploying from Iraq. The units mostly consisted of the military police and security forces to assist with transportation, aviation, medical and engineering. They focused on search and rescue missions, emergency power and provision of water. The large mobilization was efficient due to a general call for support after a few days, guards from states outside the disaster areas consisting largely of volunteers, quick deployment due to efficient structures in place and lastly, the fact that not all national guards were busy with other operations such as counterdrug operations or foreign operations.  After five days, the internal security forces and Active-Duty Forces such as the Army, Navy and Air Force were mobilized.

Example: Military Support to Relief Efforts after Earthquake in Nepal 2015

The 2015 earthquake in Nepal triggered one of the biggest disaster risk response missions on an international scale. The earthquake resulted in almost 10.000 deaths, 23.000 injuries and more than 60.000 people displaced. Out of the 34 assisting countries, 17 sent military support. The military support included engineers, medical professionals, and air support. Assistance activities mostly included search and rescue missions. This massive support witnessed several difficulties, including parallel civilian and military disaster response structures and unequal access to equipment. Coordination between national authorities and foreign military teams was also challenging. However, the foreign military support, which lasted three weeks, played an essential role for an immediate crisis management.

Disasters in Fragile and Conflict Affected Contexts

In fragile and conflict affected contexts, development without security is unsustainable and the absence of both is a risk multiplier for any kind of disaster, aggravating humanitarian emergencies.

For improved planning and early warning systems there is a need to include DRR and DRM in security sector regulatory frameworks, governance structures and Standard Operating Procedures. Today, DRR governance structures widely refer to development sectors, engineering or crisis bureaus. Including security forces in DRR governance will make them better equipped to respond and support in times of crises and to various disaster risks.

Donors such as Germany and Switzerland are among the leading actors to address DRR and security in an interlinked manner. They are also strong supporters of the Sendai framework. Germany is one of the major supporters of the link between DRR and Security. Switzerland is engaging nationally and internationally to promote an integrated approach to DRR in all of its development assistance work. Increased coordination and collaboration on bilateral and international levels paves the way for stronger synergies SSR and DRR providing a unique opportunity for operationalizing the humanitarian-security-development nexus.

Fragility and Conflict as Risk Multipliers for Disasters

The fact that armed conflict aggravates risks from natural disasters has been long established. This simultaneously puts additional stresses on the security sector actors involved in the response, as well as providing an opportunity for a positive engagement with the population.

For example, the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction provides empirical evidence of the role of conflict in exacerbating disaster risks and vulnerability. There are examples in the third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction on how the erosion of institutions, displacement and the loss of livelihoods in ongoing conflict situations such as Somalia, South Sudan, DRC, Nigeria, Niger and Mali, further aggravates natural disasters. A study on the effect of armed conflict on vulnerability to natural hazards found that in conflict zones compared to non-conflict zones, the number of disaster-related deaths are on average 40 % higher.

When any disaster occurs in an area experiencing conflict, people are doubly affected. Aggravation of already existing resource scarcity can trigger further competition among communities and States on resource sharing, it may also intensify conflict drivers that may increase the risk of violence within or between states. A natural disaster can lead to further displacement as people displaced by conflict are forced to move yet again because of the disaster. In Sri Lanka some of those displaced by the conflict were displaced again by the 2004 tsunami. Natural disasters occurring in conflict areas can cause increased hardship for communities hosting the displaced. In Somalia, for example, rural areas hard hit by flooding in 2009 had already been having difficulty growing sufficient food for their communities, and the arrival of Somalis displaced by the fighting in Mogadishu increased the strain on these communities.

One of the fundamental factors in long term conflict affected and fragile countries is weak security sector organizations. Organizations that struggle with the conduct of their normal roles, often have poor community relationships and low trust, and which are highly resources constrained in their normal operations, are in a very weak position to play strong roles in disaster prevention or response. Conversely, reform of security sector organizations that succeeds in strengthening their effectiveness (through governance reforms) and relationship with the community (through accountability) can better position the state to be able to mitigate the risk from disasters, and respond effectively when they occur. With reform the police can be a fundamental part of successful first response, and the military can be an important component of the states’ surge capacity to manage the response and recovery.

Various forms of emergency situations can be directly caused by violent conflict. Forced and semi-voluntary displacement internally or across borders, famine caused by disruption of transport or destruction of harvest and food stocks, destruction of medical and other essential infrastructure are among the most evident disasters caused by conflict. There is an increasing recognition at the international level of the benefits of integrating  more systematically conflict risks into disaster risk assessment.

Disasters as Risk Multipliers for Conflict

As climate change is demonstrating, disasters can be risk multipliers in this respect, with a particularly heavy impact on fragile and conflict-affected states, as well as posing additional challenges to these countries’ weak security and justice sectors. Slow onset and long-term disasters often put strains on populations, governments and security systems in unpredictable and unfairly distributed ways, with the differential distribution potentially contributing to conflict dynamics. The magnitude of the impact of climate change related structural changes in patterns and frequency of natural disaster merits some additional, long-term and structural thinking about which of the security sectors’ contributions to DRR writ large might be amplified, strengthened or scaled to mitigate climate change’s negative impact.

Climate change increases the exposure to risks from natural disaster in fragile states, as well as acting as a risk-multiplier to pre-existing conflict risks such as competition over scarce resources, social tensions and unrest. Consequences of climate change such as rising sea levels threaten many low-lying coastal states or regions, aggravating existing land disputes. Many ports and economic hubs are located in such areas and thus rising sea levels has wider economic implications. In these cases, climate change and natural hazards acts as risk-multipliers to already existing tensions and conflict. Climate change related natural disasters may also act as indirect causes of conflict-related emergency situations, such as massive scale forced displacement and food insecurity due to droughts or extreme weather events.

Therefore, climate change related hazards can further aggravate and prolong conflict and fragility related state weakness, increasing the challenges to retain peace. Its effects may hit particularly already fragile contexts with extra burdens, where individuals, communities and governments already have limited capacities to handle additional external shocks. Disrupting individuals’ and communities’ capacities to live in such conditions poses threats to human security, but climate change does also challenge the nation state. Within this context of increased pressure on state systems, reform of the security system to be as effective and accountable as possible is a key aspect on managing conflict risk.

Opportunities for SSR and DRR synergies

Strengthen State Legitimacy

SSR Builds Trust in Government Security and Justice Institutions for DRR to be Effective

Countries most affected by fragility, weak institutions and lack of trust between citizens and state are least able to manage, mitigate or respond to disasters. SSR helps build inclusive and accountable security institutions which strengthen the community’s trust in the State and its services. A study from the Ebola outbreak in Liberia demonstrated that trust in government and its security services is an important determinant of citizens’ compliance with public health policies. The study’s results suggested that respondents’ refusal to comply with governmental measures, such as social distancing, was because they did not trust the capacity or integrity of government institutions.

SSR Creates Strong Oversight and Accountability Mechanisms for Responsive DRR

A lack of good governance and oversight over the security services providing disaster relief can lead to discriminatory delivery of relief efforts or even violations of human rights. Oversight mechanisms for security and justice actors during time of national crises is particularly important due to significant shortfalls by the State institutions in fulfilling their mandates.

The Interagency Standing Committee Operational Guidelines on the Protection of persons in situations of natural disasters identifies the following list of risks to human rights,, provision of security and justice services as well as adherence to the Rule of Law, several of which are directly related to the performance and governance of security institutions. Break-down in law enforcement mechanisms and restricted access to a fair and efficient justice system opens the door to higher criminal activity and forced relocations and unsafe or involuntary return or resettlement of displaced persons, as well as challenges with property restitution and access to land. In conflict zones, the vulnerability of children to abuse, neglect and exploitation is aggravated by the danger of being recruited into armed groups. The lack of effective feedback and complaint mechanisms aggravates the problem and leads to increasing vulnerabilities.

For example, after the 2004 Indian ocean tsunami, reports of discriminatory access to assistance and violence in temporary shelters raised protection concerns and lead the Inter-Agency Standing Committee to adopt the Operational Guidelines on the Protection of Persons in Situations of Natural Disasters.

SSR Provides Human Rights and People-Centred Approaches Necessary for DRR

It has been well established that security capacity building efforts, sometimes also known as train and equip, significantly increase their impact if delivered jointly with measures to improve security forces’ governance structures.

Integrating DRR and SSR efforts in this respect presents a great opportunity for synergies. Necessary capacities of security forces to effectively deal with disasters (for example provision of training and equipment) can be built while making sure to include interventions aiming at improving the security sectors’ governance.

Disaster Risk Response puts security forces in direct contact with the civilian population, and requires them to work together in harmony. The ability of security forces to support disaster management through repressive means is limited, and can be counterproductive. As a result, a focus on supporting the DRR role of security forces can be a useful approach for SSR, as it organically involves civilian oversight and leadership, and working with the community rather than against it. This requires training and sensitizing security forces to perceive and implement their mandate from a people-centric, rights-based service delivery perspective, ensuring inclusivity and equal access of services.

Integrated SSR-DRR Programming Provides a Cross-Institutional Platform to Promote Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding

The scale of disasters requires multiagency responses, as no one part of government is typically capable of managing the situation unaided. SSR-DRR programming could focus on cross-institutional capacity building activities through joint planning and scenario training exercises that bring together DRR and SSG/R relevant actors. These include military and law enforcement personnel, as supporting actors to the core the government agencies engaged in preparedness activities, in addition to building relationships and trust with civil society organizations, traditional leaders and community organizations.

Donor support could be designed to aim for confidence-building between the various stakeholders involved. Methodologies for instigating attitudinal and behavioural change, through dialogue and joint problem solving could be deployed. Adding a gender perspective would ensure that the special needs of women are sufficiently taken into account in disaster response and integrated by security forces.

These activities also hold the potential to contribute to the reconstruction of social cohesion in the aftermath of civil conflict, which would strengthen post-conflict reconciliation, help to rebuild trust after human rights violations by a predatory security sector, or foster the integration of IDPs and refugees into local communities.

Assess security sector actors’ capabilities for DRR

Acknowledging the role of civil protection agencies as part of the security sector

The civilian-led civil protection agencies provide a crucial service to a population in terms of ensuring their physical safety. At the same time, as they often are seen to operate outside the security sector, and security sector reform programming does not engage with them on building their capacities in an equal manner to the military and law enforcement. Therefore, their capacity in terms of management and leadership is frequently lower compared with other actors.

Including civil protection agencies explicitly in security sector reform efforts could strengthen these capacities in a balanced manner compared with support provided to the military and police, especially in fragile countries and nascent democracies. Donors could single out programmes/projects or specific lines of activities to enhance the effective management and leadership capacity of the civilian institutions in charge of disaster management, whether Ministry of Interior or a multi-stakeholder civilian body.

Security Actors Capacity Building Needs to Include DRR-Relevant Capacities

In order to provide security and justice services to the population reliably and effectively, institutions require the right capacities in terms of doctrine, planning, training, and capabilities. This holds equally true for the delivery of disaster risk planning, management and response, which might require specific equipment for communication or transport, infrastructure such as warehouses, and the corresponding training for example in managing logistics. Most importantly, security actors need to know how to plan and work under the leadership of the central emergency management organizations, be they health or civil protection.

Therefore, when conducting a needs assessment in the framework of a security capacity building initiatives, the projected requirements for the security forces to play their role in disaster and emergency preparedness should be included in the planning. Building these capacities also needs to take into account preparing security actors for this role at the national as well as at the international level, for example in the form of participating in humanitarian disaster relief operations.

Both nationally and internationally, there is key opportunity to be seized – investing in the preparation of security forces for delivering this disaster relief nationally and internationally, respectful of human rights, in an inclusive manner and effectively. Operationally, this means the need to focus on capacity building on civil-military relations as well as ensuring the interoperability between organizations (especially security sector actors and purely civilian organizations), to maintain a  people-centric approach.

SSR Capacity and Needs Assessments Need to Consider Security Sector Disaster Response Preparedness

Security sector assessments need to take into consideration the impact of any reform on the sector’s ability to effectively deliver disaster response. The link between conflict, disaster and climate change is not always detailed in policies. National security strategies rarely link to any existing disaster response strategies. Any assessment should acknowledge the link between disaster risks, governance capabilities and security sector reform processes, enabling future processes to recognize the need to increase security institutions’ capacity and skills enabling them to cope with disaster and conflict risks.

Harness Local Ownership

DRR and SRR Mechanisms Could Jointly Strengthen partnerships with Local Stakeholders  

Local ownership needs to be both a guiding principle and the objective of a people-centric approach to collaboratively reduce and mitigate risks. DRR-SSR synergies should enable partnerships with informal security and justice actors, such as traditional leaders, religious authorities, community-based organizations and civil defence volunteers to draw on their knowledge and expertise for risk assessments and planning, obtain their buy-in for response strategies and reinforce their capacities for participation.

Concretely, the Sendai framework’s target E commits to increase national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020, and that local governments adopt and implement local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with national strategies. With this in mind, SSR and DRR communities would benefit from joint approaches, as they both aim at strengthening local ownership and local governance mechanisms, supporting communities to become more resilient and capable of handling external shocks.

DRR and SRR Mechanisms Could Jointly Adopt a Human Security Perspective

With the cost of disasters on the rise, synergies between disaster risk, climate change and conflict and security deserve more explicit attention at the policy level.

As conflict is a risk multiplier for disasters, there is a need to engage in conflict-mitigation strategies to reduce and manage this risk. Investing in security sector governance is a sensible potential component of risk mitigation. Similarly, climate change is a multiplier of natural disasters and conflict related risks, as well as a possible cause of conflict. SSR practitioners can do more to understand and integrate a DRR focus in reform efforts.

Additional resources

ISSAT recommends the following resources: