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Cultures of Disaster Resilience among children and young people

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CUIDAR (Cultures of Disaster Resilience among children and young people)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-06-30

Cultural sensitivity is essential to effective disaster management and disaster risk reduction, yet disaster plans still largely view those affected as victims and as a homogenous group, within which children are often invisible.
Understanding children’s perspectives has been demonstrated by organisations such as Save the Children, to be a vital part of the process of building resilience: children are community members and citizens in their own right with potential to play an important role in shaping more effective responses to disaster at local and national levels.

Children are excellent disseminators of information and have the potential to be a catalyst for positive change within their communities and can actively participate in disaster risk reduction activities. Furthermore, as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states, children have the right to have their opinion taken into account on any matter that affects them and this includes disasters.

The combination of rising urbanisation, increasing climate-change related risk, the particular vulnerabilities of children and young people and the lack of awareness of their perceptions, priorities and capacities, has prompted us to develop the CUIDAR project. We argue that if urban societies are to become resilient to this increasing problem, then children and young people’s voices must be heard and understood throughout disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

CUIDAR has seven objectives:

1. To understand what assumptions are made about children and young people (as a diverse cultural group) in current disaster risk reduction and resilience building programmes, policies and practices for urban contexts, specifically:

• To what degree do children and young people participate in disaster management?
• Do policies and practices take a range of cultural perspectives into account? For example, cultures of disability, social class, disadvantage, gender, ethnicity, marginalisation.
• How are these cultures perceived as: a) strengths or b) vulnerabilities?

2. To consult and partner with children in high-risk urban contexts to understand their perception of risk and share ideas about ways they could increase their resilience; together to explore ways to communicate their experience and priorities to their peers, communities, policy makers and practitioners.

3. To engage in and develop more effective lines of communication with children and young people to enable them to influence local/regional disaster management strategy, empowering children to realise their right to be heard.

4. To use the above to enable practitioners and policy makers to gain understanding and insight into children’s risk perceptions, priorities and their capacities in urban contexts, taking into account different cultural groups.

5. Through regional, national and EU level policy dialogues raise awareness and communicate issues related to children and young people’s resilience and perception of risk, how this is impacted by cultural factors and how policy needs to develop to include this.

6. To develop a disaster management policy and practice framework for engaging with children and young people’s perspectives, recognising their capacities, and taking account of their different cultural strengths and vulnerabilities.

7. To carry out an effective dissemination programme with children’s participation, specifically:

• To disseminate outcomes to relevant national civil protection, voluntary and children’s organisations via conference presentations and articles in popular, government and third sector publications and the media.
• To ensure publication of project results in high quality journals (in all project languages).
• To disseminate outcomes globally via social media, oral, poster and virtual presentations at leading international conferences and workshops.
Significant progress has been made on meeting the objectives of this Coordination and Support Action, with early findings indicating that children and young people either have considerable experience and knowledge about disasters or that they wish to play a role in emergency planning and resilience building in their communities and can make a crucial contribution to the effectiveness of planning, response and recovery.

Working with children and young people in a participatory and child-led way involves considerable negotiation and flexibility and we are pleased to say that all partners have succeeded in holding the crucial Dialogues with Children (WP3), which is necessarily the longest and most complex work package. To date we have held 141 workshop sessions with children and young people across the Consortium states in a range of different settings. As this WP runs until month 25, it is too early to be able to report findings in any systematic way here. This WP is very closely linked with WPs 4 & 5, in fact these are interdependent, so there has been important dialogue between the WP leaders about this. It is important therefore to recognise that these WPs are not ‘stand alone’.

We are particularly proud of the contributions of children to CUIDAR so far. Children were involved right from the start, as organised by Portugal which resulted in a stunning logo designed by children, which has now become our signature. We have been able to use many of the children’s contributions to this ‘competition’; for example each time we create a blog or new feature on the CUIDAR website, we utilise another image created by the children. This gives the project a very special ‘feel’:

Our work will gather in intensity over the next 18 months with key targets being national awareness raising events, creating film clips which convey children's perspectives on disaster and recovery, assembling a project-wide the film, creating a Framework for disaster management which is child-centred, and convening the project’s final event in Lisbon in 2018.
Our conceptual model attached illustrates the dominant view of children a) as a largely vulnerable and homogenous population, regardless of age, physical and mental ability, socio-cultural/economic status, nationality or social disadvantage, who are net recipients of aid and resources, versus b) a model that acknowledges that children represent a relatively vulnerable population who may hold varying but invaluable local knowledge and reciprocal relationships in their communities. The first scenario potentially disempowers children and reduces resilience. The second scenario potentially empowers children and may increase community resilience. The second approach, we propose, implies the identification and development of innovative pathways that empower children to play an active role in developing local, national and international disaster management policy.

Working in three phases and through seven work packages, this project is:

• Addressing the exclusion of children and young people from the disaster planning and management process

• Providing innovative and creative communication channels for children’s voices to be heard

• Planning to develop a child centred disaster management framework for use by policy/decision makers in participating countries, the EU and beyond