Seven years on from the Sendai Framework, what has happened on risk reduction in the Sahel?
October 24, 2022
By Katie Peters, Team Leader, Senior Research Fellow, ODI
For countries across the globe, 2019 and 2020 have been years like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic has made evident the need for African nations to continue to invest in disaster risk management systems for biological risks, just as the Ebola crisis had done in 2014–2016.
Yet for many disaster risk reduction experts across the African continent, framing the pandemic as a ‘surprise’ is misguided. Granted, the specific virus was largely unforeseen; however, risk managers across the continent have been striving to enhance risk management systems for biological as well as other hazards for decades, in recognition that disaster risks are undermining development progress and resulting in unnecessary loss of life.
This is why African nations signed up to the Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction; a 15 year plan to enhance disaster resilience. To achieve the ambitions set out within the Sendai Framework, the African Union created a Programme of Action detailing what needed to happen at the continental, regional and national scale.
Seven years on, the question is being asked; has sufficient progress been made towards that Programme of Action? A major review across seven countries by the African Union Commission and UNDP through the Sahel Resilience Project, together with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI ) finds that widespread progress has been made. Despite such improvements, challenges remain. The review provides over 200 recommendations.
For every step forward, it can feel like there are two steps backwards.− Katie Peters, ODI
The review finds that new partnerships between funders and governments have enabled the modernization of hydrological and meteorological systems for the monitoring of hazards. Earth observation has been strengthened, helping increase weather forecasting capacities. And protocols for analyzing and triggering action for food and nutrition insecurity have been adapted to place special emphasis on gender with updates to the Cadre Harmonisé mechanism. Models bringing together a wide range of data sets on risk are being refined and used to inform decisions about risk reduction actions. And the scientific collaborations required to strengthen evidence-based decision-making are being established.
Despite such improvements, challenges remain. Weak data collection and information systems, inadequate technical expertise, and insufficient use and validation of information by at-risk communities, are persistent challenges. Moreover, the need for technical upgrades to ensure data collection and monitoring systems are in-line with global standards and meet user needs remain an aspiration.
For every step forward, it can feel like there are two steps backwards. Continued risk creation as a result of development processes, together with the compounding impact of climate variability and change, mean that accelerated action on disaster risk reduction is required if the targets set out within the Sendai Framework are to be achieved in the remaining eight years.
There is also an unspoken possibility – the global targets may be achieved, but may mask significant regional and national differences. If the review of progress in West Africa and the Sahel over the past seven years reveals anything, it is that contexts contending with issues of violence and conflict require dedicated support. Operational programmes aiming to reduce disaster risk in such contexts are challenged by issues of access and insecurity, diversion of funding, and weak governance structures and institutions. Continuing with standardized approaches to developing disaster risk reduction policies, institutions, and interventions - which focus primarily on natural hazards – will continue to be curtailed in their possible impact. Dedicated efforts are required which open possibilities for more innovative forms of risk reduction actions which actively engage with the realities of conflict, rather than look the other way. Time is not on our side. We have eight years to transform the way we think and act on disaster risk reduction in conflict settings.