Gender-responsive global disaster risk reduction frameworks, coordination mechanisms and processes are essential to create the governance environment and political economy for systematically building women’s resilience.
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (Sendai Framework) was the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda. It provides Member States with concrete actions to protect development gains from the risk of disasters. Although the Sendai Framework emphasises the importance of gender inclusion and of sex-disaggregated data, the indicators agreed by member States for reporting through the Sendai Framework Monitor (for example on deaths, injuries, economic losses) do not require disaggregated data. The forthcoming mid-term review of the Sendai Framework provides an opportunity for a stronger focus on gender-responsive implementation of the Sendai Framework and gender-responsive and gender-transformative action.
The Sendai Framework was adopted by UN Member States in March 2015 at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai City, Japan. The Sendai Framework aims to achieve the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods, health and the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries.
The Sendai Framework outlines seven clear targets and four priorities for action to prevent new, and reduce existing disaster risks notably through:
(i) understanding disaster risk;
(ii) strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk;
(iii) investing in disaster reduction for resilience and;
(iv) enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response, and to "Build Back Better" in recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction.
It makes several references in its preamble to gender equality and social inclusion. It identifies that “women, children, and people in vulnerable situations are disproportionately affected” by disasters. It highlights the need for more dedicated action to tackle underlying disaster risk drivers such as poverty and inequality, and calls for a broader, more “people-centred preventative approach to disaster risk,” which engages relevant stakeholders including “women, children and youth, persons with disabilities, poorer people, migrants, indigenous people, volunteers, the community of practitioners, and older persons” in the design and implementation of policies, plans, and standards.
In its expected outcome and goal, the Sendai Framework further identifies the importance of implementing inclusive and integrated measures to prevent new disaster risks and to reduce existing disaster risks; in order to secure a substantial reduction risk, and loss of lives, livelihoods, health, and assets.
Gender considerations are also identified in the Sendai Framework guiding principles. These confirm the importance of “all-of-society engagement and partnership,” which requires “empowerment and inclusive, accessible, and non-discriminatory participation, paying special attention to people disproportionately affected by disasters.” Similarly, the principles identify that “gender, age, disability, and cultural perspectives should be integrated into all policies, and practices, and women and youth leadership should be promoted”. Finally, the principles support “inclusive risk-informed decision-making based on the open exchange and dissemination of disaggregated data, including by sex, age, and disability.”
Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment through the Sendai Framework implementation will help build women's resilience to disasters. The Sendai Framework has made progress by drawing attention to the diverging ways in which women experience disasters and has highlighted their increased vulnerability in certain disaster situations. But while the Sendai Framework mentions gender equality and women’s empowerment at many points, it does not address the underlying drivers of gender-based risk in disasters or provide a concrete basis for addressing these.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly. It is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines discrimination against women and establishes an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
The General Recommendation 37 of the CEDAW Committee on gender-related dimensions of disaster risk reduction in the context of climate change, provides guidance to member States on strengthening the inclusion and resilience of women with regard to disaster and climate risk. It takes a rights-based approach and provides a clear foundation for action, including the need for increased participation and empowerment of women in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and positive measures to achieve equality. The recommendation highlights specific areas of concern, including the right to be free from gender-based violence, and socio-economic rights related to education, health, social protection and an adequate standard of living.
Other recent CEDAW general recommendations are also relevant to different aspects of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, specifically: (i) General Recommendation 34 on the rights of rural women, which requires governments to recognise, protect, and promote the rights of rural women, recognising their crucial contribution to poverty reduction, food security and nutrition, and agriculture development; and (ii) General Recommendation 35 on Gender-Based Violence against Women.
The Han Noi Recommendations for Action on Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction
In response to gaps leveraging women’s capacities and experiences in disaster risk reduction, a Regional Asia-Pacific Conference on Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction was held in May 2016. This was organised by UN Women and the Government of Viet Nam, in collaboration with UNDP, UNDRR and other partners, with support from the Government of Japan.
The 300 participants from Viet Nam and twenty-two countries across the Asia-Pacific region agreed on a set of recommendations for action aligned with the Sendai Framework’s four Priorities for Action. The conference then adopted the “Ha Noi Recommendations for Action on Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction,” providing concrete actions for national governments to move forward on strengthening integration of gender equality in the implementation of the Sendai Framework.
The Ha Noi Recommendations have since been shared widely and used including contributing to the Asia Regional Plan for Implementation of the Sendai Framework and the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP).
Progress reviews against the Ha Noi Recommendations in subsequent years show promising but uneven progress in implementation of the gendered aspects of the Sendai Framework. These reviews include the stocktake prepared by the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Disaster Risk Reduction (APP-DRR) Gender Stakeholder Group in preparation for the 2018 AMCDRR and the comprehensive review covering gender and social inclusion aspects developed by UN Women in 2020.