The hardest hit by disasters are the most vulnerable sections of the population such as women, children, persons with disabilities, elderly, ethnic and religious minorities and groups of specific disadvantages related to their physical, economic or social status. These persons will also have less immediate involvement in directing long-term post-disaster reconstruction. Unequal power relations result in exclusion and lead to unequal access to resources, education, health care and post disaster relief.
Inclusive participatory reconstruction processes are about equality of rights and opportunities, dignity of the individual, acknowledging diversity, and contributing to resilience for the community at large. It is not leaving aside members of a community based on age, gender, disability or social status. Furthermore, it is about including those expected to live with long-term disabilities as a result of a disaster.
People who are most vulnerable within Nepal include:
- ‘Dalits’ – lowest caste within the social strata
- Those in remote areas – hill tops, mountainous regions, hinterlands, remote villages
Recovery planners often fail to use the full potential of inclusive participatory planning due to the fast paced and uncertain nature of post-disaster environments. However, swift action can come at the cost of long term effectiveness and most importantly equity. This was never more evident than after the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 where the government’s centralised PDR response, in its haste, failed to include disability access for those afflicted by the disaster, leading to costly renovations to those most vulnerable and afflicted by the disaster. Furthermore, whilst it is understood that participation is a long process it is the only means of ensuring that the diversity of locals needs is captured and invaluable local knowledge and resources are used.
Particularly at risk are those who suffer from vulnerability, in fact multiple exclusion and vulnerability issues are usually at play. As a key actor within the Nepalese PDR response ASF International should seek to empower groups suffering from enhanced vulnerability through the dissemination of knowledge, skills, training and active inclusion within participatory processes. Tools such as UNNATI’s Inclusive Vulnerability Mapping provide an excellent framework to assess the structural causes of vulnerability, which is recommended alongside current ASF mapping tools such as the ‘Priority Toolkit’ and ‘Exploring your Neighbourhood’.
The Benefits of Inclusive Participation
- Inclusive participation if done appropriately can positively strengthen existing social structures. This reduces the risk of exclusion in the future.
- Facilitates an understanding of root causes of exclusion in post disaster contexts, and by identifying excluded groups and involving them meaningfully reduces their disaster risk.
- Creating an implementation framework that involves all stakeholders, ensuring community resilience and accountable risk governance in post disaster recovery.
- Decreased cost of reconstruction local materials and skills are used.
- Community can make their own decisions about regeneration, implemented by the government. The responding architecture is appropriate for all involved.
- An appropriate response. By including everyone within a community, local skills and construction techniques are used, providing an appropriate architecture.
- Improvements on the existing, pre-disaster participation can provide an opportunity to improve existing spaces by sharing knowledge of new technologies and ideas.
- Make Information Accessible – Through contributing practical accessible solutions to information access and the fostering of knowledge, the vulnerable sectors of the population have the chance to participate in building informed and collective resilience for all.
- Exclusion should be recognized as a risk and addressed in the disaster response.
- Existing Social structures need to be recognized and mapped in order to address how the community structures can be strengthened within the reconstruction process.
- Ensure everyone has a voice – provide opportunities for members of the community, other than those actively or physically involved in the reconstruction, to have a say. For example including children through short site analysis games.
- Strengthen evidence-based information, data and knowledge base on vulnerable persons – Policy making relies on having appropriate information and knowledge to make informed decisions and take effective action. Ensure that data used to inform policies and reconstruction covers those who are most vulnerable.
- Inclusion needs to be addressed through the appropriateness and safety of the built environment and day to day stresses. eg. Design for disability should be integrated.
- The response should be seen as an opportunity to improve existing community spaces for all through inclusive participation.
Inclusive participation is essential to ensure vulnerable groups most affected by disaster have equal rights within the disaster reconstruction process. This ensures a sustainable and positive future for everyone affected.