Safeguarding Local Communities Against Disasters

By Dr. Selva Ramachandran, UNDP Philippines Resident Representative

December 5, 2023

Destruction left by Typhoon Odette in Dinagat Islands in 2022

UNDP Philippines


In the past decades, climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of natural hazards across the globe. Consequently, its impacts have also exacerbated the Philippines’ vulnerability to disaster risks. Estimates gathered by the World Bank show that 60% of the country’s land area and 74% of its population are exposed to flooding, earthquake, droughts, and other hazards. In 2021 and 2022, damage due to extreme events and disasters cost the country USD 1.12 billion and USD 545.7 million affecting 3.63 million and 3.47 million families, respectively, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. 

In every region or province, the impacts of disasters and climate change vary across communities. Location, particularly the proximity to volcanoes, rivers, and seas, is one determining factor. The cost of disasters to this country is a massive burden on peoples’ security and well-being. Local governments and communities bear the heaviest brunt, repeatedly hitting hardest at the poor and most vulnerable.

No less than the Conference of the Parties to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at CoP 28 has underscored the urgency for climate action. 2023 has been the hottest year on record. The climate crisis needs accelerated response, funding, stronger partnerships, and commitments translated into concrete results, focusing on the most vulnerable.

But help comes from within. Local government units, community leaders, and civic groups serve as frontliners for response efforts, providing basic needs and the means to bring families to safety. Communities are the champions of one another. With their firm handle of the social, political, and environmental realities that will impact their safety and wellbeing, local actors know how to rise above calamities. However, they can only do so much when the threat of disasters persists.

The Strengthening Institutions and Empowering Localities against Disasters and Climate Change or SHIELD Programme recognizes the agency and the innate resilience of local actors.

With support from the Government of Australia and implemented by a consortium of partners with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the lead, SHIELD targets to harness the potential of the most vulnerable provinces and regions to ensure their ability to respond to and rebuild from disasters at the needed breadth and scale. Through multi-stakeholder partnerships, SHIELD aims to combine indigenous knowledge and on-the-ground evidence with national-level capabilities and the science of risk-informed decision making

Interventions to build local resilience under SHIELD will benefit from guidance and expertise from national agencies, with the Department of the Interior and Local Government as lead agency providing strategic direction and coordination assistance to the focus LGUs. The Department of Science and Technology will capacitate communities to generate disaster risk information to inform their development planning, while the Office of the Civil Defense will provide recommendations based on policies and protocols for disaster preparedness. 

One of its envisioned outcomes is helping its partner LGUs build capabilities to better assess and manage risks within their localities, and eventually, unlock available resources from both local and international climate financing facilities such as the Green Climate Fund and the country’s very own People’s Survival Fund. Efforts will also be pursued towards innovative private sector financing, such as green bonds and microinsurance solutions.

Through its partners from government, civil society, and the international community, the initiative seeks to link local governments to access supplementary funding for innovative and evidence-based response to emergencies such as early warning systems, improve the promotion of industries that create green jobs such as ecotourism, and prepare bankable proposals for disaster risk reduction and management activities.

Through its consortium partners, SHIELD is also providing micro, small, and medium enterprises with knowledge on value chain analyses and business planning to ensure they continue to operate and earn even during disasters

Resilience is everyone’s business – and it is built upon strong partnerships and empowered communities. By combining their collective strengths, forging strategic partnerships, and building a solid evidence base to translate their innate capacities to action, communities have the power to lead one another towards progress that towers over vulnerabilities and, hence, excludes no one. [END]




SHIELD is an Australian Government initiative and a multi-year partnership being implemented by a consortium led by UNDP, along with its partners, Philippine Business for Social Progress, National Resilience Council, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, and UN-Habitat.