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Global Resilience Partnership win attracts US$1m

19 October 2015
University of Sydney represents Australia in the first-ever Global Resilience Challenge, selected to focus on disasters and development assistance

Funding to support two-year project to strengthen the voices of people with disabilities in the Asia Pacific, and provide much-needed support in natural disasters.

Disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction is a human right—but for change to occur, there needs to be a fundamental shift in disaster risk reduction strategy, practice and, most importantly, a change in mindsets
Dr Emma Calgaro

The University of Sydney is one of eight collaborative groups worldwide to win the first-ever Global Resilience Challenge that awards each team up to US$1 million each—to build resilience to climate change, natural disasters and transform humanitarian and development assistance in South and South east Asia, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

The Challenge is the first project of the US$160 million Global Resilience Partnership—a public-private initiative convened by the Rockefeller Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

The University of Sydney, in collaboration with partners in Australia and Southeast Asia, has received the funding for a two-year project to strengthen the voices of people with disabilities in the region and provide them with much-needed support in responding to natural hazards. People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by climate-related disasters and are often overlooked in disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts. Consequently, people with disabilities are unseen, unheard and unaccounted for in DRR.

Led by Dr Emma Calgaro, from the University’s Asia-Pacific Hazards Research Group, with scientific advisor Associate Professor Dale Dominey-Howes, the team will take a multi-action approach: supporting the generation of knowledge on the challenges people with different disabilities; increasing risk awareness and skills needed to help people with disabilities gain the support to prepare effectively for disasters; and empowering people with disabilities to become champions of resilience in their communities. Their project, ‘Disability and Disasters: Empowering people and building resilience to risk’, will focus on Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines.

More than one in 20 disaster-affected people develop a disability from an event. There are an estimated 650 million people with disabilities across the Asia-Pacific— the most disaster-prone region in the world—and this number is expected to increase because of a range of economic, health and environmental changes.

“Disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction [DiDRR] is a human right – but for change to occur, there needs to be a fundamental shift in disaster risk reduction strategy, practice and, most importantly, a change in mindsets,” said Dr Calgaro, who is based in Bangkok.

Dr Calgaro said research to back up anecdotal evidence would inform the details of the latter phases of the project, which would be centred on developing toolkits and sharing knowledge widely.

“It’s a huge problem in the aid community; information and expertise is not being routinely shared,” she said. “We will not reinvent the wheel but we are going to do all we can to ensure that there is greater and more equal access to the resources people need to respond effectively to future risk.”

Team members include Australian Deaf couple Nick Craig, the Philippines in-country team lead for the Deaf community sub-project, and Leilani Craig who will support Dr Calgaro as the Alternate Project lead. Mrs Craig said: “Nick and I are thrilled to see Deaf people taking a part of the disability inclusive disaster risk reduction—people with disabilities will become more informed and their lives can be saved."      

Mr Craig added: “As we are living in a technology era, there is no excuse for not providing accessible emergency information for people with disabilities.” 

The University of Sydney will commence its project this year as one of eight teams that were successful out of 477 who participated in the Challenge and 17 who were in the running in stage two announced in March. 

Verity Leatherdale

Manager, Faculty Media and PR
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