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The Sendai Framework and its gendered implementation

The regional platforms provide an opportunity for formulating Regional Action Plans that are gender-responsive.

11 October 2021

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030 underlines that women's participation is critical to effectively managing disaster risk and designing, resourcing, and implementing gender-responsive disaster risk reduction policies, strategies, plans, and programmes. Gender, just like disaster risk reduction (DRR), is a cross-cutting issue requiring mainstreaming across sectors and actions.

The following are the existing Regional Action Plans for Disaster Risk Reduction for the five regions:

The regional Sendai Framework platforms/ conferences have to go further and drill down to actionable points and commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment backed up by investments to be fruitfully integrated into the Regional Action Plans that serve as foundational guidance for the member-states. Based on the review, the following are the critical areas that need to be urgently addressed for mainstreaming of gender in the Regional Action Plans for Sendai Framework.


 1.  Regional Action Plans should integrate CEDAW and its General Recommendation 37 (2018) on the gender-related dimensions of disaster risk reduction in the context of climate change

 Unlike the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is a legally binding international treaty for Member States. 

 CEDAW General Recommendation 37 (2018) on the gender-related dimensions of disaster risk reduction in the context of climate change should be integrated across the four priorities of the Regional Action Plans and be reported in the Regional Action Plan Reports along with the Universal Periodic Review. The As of October 2019, 189 States are party to the CEDAW and are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. This is unlike the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which is not legally binding. Kindly refer to the - List of Member States that have acceded or ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. CEDAW General Recommendations 37 explicitly links disasters, pandemics, and women's rights in an actionable way, taking into account the principles of substantive equality and non-discrimination, participation and empowerment, accountability, and access to justice.  It serves as guidance to State Parties to ensure that gender equality and women's empowerment are central to disaster risk reduction.


 2. Address the conspicuous absence of gender issues in Sendai Framework Priority 3 – Investing in DRR in the Regional Action Plans

Even though gender issues are being increasingly championed in the Sendai Framework, somehow, the linkages between gender and DRR remain inadequately addressed in Regional Action Plans, especially in the Sendai Framework Priority 3 on Investment in DRR. Gender-responsive budgeting, financial and digital inclusion of women, gender-responsive disaster risk reduction, and access to essential services and infrastructure for building women’s resilience, although increasingly important, are not prioritised.[1] The  Asia Regional Action Plan for DRR (2018-2020) mentions gender-responsive investments but only in relation to sexual and reproductive health.  This calls for the following:

  • Gender-responsive investments and guidance are critically needed in livelihoods, infrastructure, food security, social protection, and climate change, especially now in the COVID-19 context.
  • Regional Action Plan must include the action points and investments for women’s economic disaster and climate resilience. Regional actions should consist of developing regional guidelines and capacity development for gender-responsive planning and budgeting.


 3.  Monitor and Evaluate the progress of gender indicators in Regional Action Plans for DRR

 Currently, there is a lack of measurable indicators to evaluate the progress of actions in the Regional Action Plans. In some cases, even though the Action Plans contain several actions on gender mainstreaming, the monitoring and review reports fail to reflect the progress of those actions. For example, the Programme of Action for  Africa, contains seven actions on gender mainstreaming but its progress report does not contain any update on the progress of six out of the seven actions.  This calls for the following:

  • The Regional Action Plans should have some SMART indicators to measure progress. For each Action Point, it should identify: (i) who is responsible for implementing the action; (ii) who monitors the progress; and (iii) means of verification.


4.  Gender and social inclusion in Sendai Framework Target E.2

Make communities the reason and focus  for the next action planning. The resilience of any country is dependent on the aggregation of the resilience of its communities and citizens, especially women and girls. The findings from Target E progress reflect that even though there has been good progress in Target E.1 on developing national plans and strategies for DRR, these are not always gender-responsive and there has been limited progress on Target E.2  (local plans and strategies for DRR) to address the vulnerabilities of the communities on the ground. This calls for the following:

  •  The content and focus of the action plan needs to drill down to community impact level of community-based disaster risk reduction/management and community resilience.
  • The next Action Plans should suggest clear indicators for DRR and resilience. For example:  percentage of women and socially excluded groups in the communities that are members of disaster risk reduction/management  teams and contribute to planning and implementation of DRM/DRR initiatives; number of women and persons with disabilities in villages who are trained in DRM.


5.  Regional Action Plan for DRR and coherence with Agenda 2030 and treaties on gender and social inclusion

 The next action plans should be comprehensively risk-informed aligned with the UN Resilience Framework. It should include explicit references and actions for the fulfilment of the DRR related international and regional conventions and treaties ratified by the member-states such as the CEDAW General Recommendation 37 (2018) on the gender-related dimensions of disaster risk reduction in the context of climate change, the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights, the Nansen Initiative Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate change, and the Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration contributing to the achievement of SDGs and overall Agenda 2030.


 5.  Composition of the Drafting Committee and country delegations

The Drafting Committee should have geographic and gender-balanced membership, encompassing fresh and solution-oriented perspectives.  This calls for the following:

  • The drafting Committee should be democratic and should represent the intersectionality within gender, such as organisations representing:   (i) economic groups – women working informal sector and Micro, Small, & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs);  (ii)   migrants, Internally displaced Persons (IDPs), and refugees; (iii)  women and girls from traditionally/socio-economically excluded - castes, tribes, colour, and ethnicity; (iv) age – Infants, girls, and elderly; (v) women with disabilities; and (vi) sexual orientation and gender identities. These groups are not always adequately represented in the Drafting Committee for the Regional Action Plans. As a result, the needs and investments of these groups are also not always included.
  •  Country delegations should also reflect gender balance and inclusion of diverse voices on gender and social inclusion, education, livelihoods, climate change, and social protection.


 Regional Platforms for DRR

The ongoing and future platforms provide an ideal opportunity for formulating Regional Action Plans that are gender-responsive especially in the backdrop of COVID-19 and to growing climate change inequities.  Regional Platforms are multi-stakeholder forums that reflect the commitment of governments to improve coordination and implementation of DRR activities while linking to international and national efforts.

  •  All the above recommendations on the design, agenda, composition of the drafting committee for regional action plans can significantly help the Regional Action Plan to be more gender-inclusive and responsive.

 [1] IANWGE (2020) 25 YEARS AFTER BEIJING A review of the UN system’s support for the implementation of the Platform for Action, 2014-2019  

About the author:

Malashree Bhargava is an international development professional with expertise in disaster risk reduction, resilience, climate change, humanitarian action, and gender equality. She is currently working as a Disaster Risk Reduction and Humanitarian Action Expert with the UN Women.

For the past 15 years, Ms. Bhargava has been working with multilateral and bilateral organizations, governments, and civil society entities in Asia-Pacific, Africa, and European regions with a holistic focus on disaster risk reduction and sustainable development issues.

She holds a Master of International Humanitarian Action as Erasmus Mundus scholarship by the European Commission and a   Master of   Political   Science.   She also completed a   professional course in Advanced Studies in Disaster Risk Reduction from EPFL, Switzerland. As a scholar at United Nations University, she has provided technical expertise and policy recommendations for the UN member-states on disaster resilience.