Canada’s platform for disaster risk reduction

Disaster risk reduction is among the most complex interdisciplinary fields implicating stakeholders from all levels of government, academia, the private sector, community partners, non-governmental organizations, Aboriginal communities and individual citizens.

In 2005, Canada, along with 167 other governments, adopted the Hyogo Framework for Action, under the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. This non-binding international tool seeks to reduce human, social, economic and environmental costs of disasters, moving from reaction to resilience. There are many components under the Framework, but one of the most powerful is that countries are encouraged to develop National Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction. These Platforms are nationally led multi-stakeholder fora, to permit consultation on addressing the root causes of disaster vulnerability and building collaborative disaster resilience.

In June 2009, Canada announced the establishment of Canada’s Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction. To build a participatory Platform that reflected the diversity of activities undertaken in Canada, Public Safety Canada researched and engaged stakeholders in order to learn from domestic and international best practices in disaster risk reduction. The design and implementation of Canada’s Platform is unique as it acknowledges and builds on existing networks within the community and, while providing opportunities for new players to self-identify and contribute. By building on existing emergency management consultation mechanisms, relationships and networks, Canada’s Platform is efficient and effective. Partners include other federal departments, provinces and territories, first responders, the private sector, academia and the not-for-profit sector. The Platform also creates opportunities for interested parties outside of existing consultative structures by having open and free membership to any Canadian.

Canada’s Platform endeavors to build a safer and more resilient Canada through the reduction of risks and leveraging the capacities and opportunities across all sectors and the public by raising awareness and providing strategic advice to policy makers through inter-disciplinary collaboration. Canada’s Platform is unique in that it:

  • Advances the field of emergency management to promote a safer and more resilient Canada by bringing together any Canadian or organization that is interested in disaster risk reduction;
  • Fosters collaboration and cooperation by providing a space through which interested members can participate in disaster risk reduction initiatives, including leading working groups;
  • Builds on existing networks, providing an umbrella forum through which to work, share ideas across silos; and
  • Governs itself through an Advisory Committee, the structure of which was approved by the members themselves.

A key component in providing spaces for people to come together to discuss disaster risk reduction is the Annual Roundtable, which facilitates implementation of Canada’s Platform activities, and serves as an open multi-stakeholder mechanism for dialogue on national disaster risk reduction issues. The first Roundtable was held in Fredericton, New Brunswick in 2010. A year later at the Ottawa Roundtable, participation had doubled from 70 participants to close to 150.

The theme for the 2012 Roundtable is From Reaction to Resilience.  Canada has the capacity to react to emergencies and provide support to communities across the country, but moving from reaction to resilience requires an increased focus on disaster risk reduction and engagement of all sectors of the economy and communities.  The Roundtable is an opportunity for all stakeholders across society to share their experiences and insights on building national and community resilience and to contribute to reducing disaster risks in Canada.

The Roundtable is not the only success of Canada’s Platform. Four working groups have emerged, each as a response to an identified need by the community; Resilient Communities, Volunteer Sector, Science and Technology, and Private Sector Partnerships. It is the membership itself that develops the Terms of Reference for each working group, identifies Chairs, and participates in activities. The working groups build on existing partnerships within emergency management, encourage the ongoing participation of collaborators from various fora, and provide an opportunity to continue integrating regional and operational perspectives into related emergency management policy research, analysis, development and implementation.

An example of a working group initiative is an information poster designed, produced and distributed by the Resilient Communities Working Group. The poster has a simple ten-point check-list outlining how to become a “resilient community” and how to participate in the United Nations’ Making Cities Resilient campaign.

Canada’s model and innovative activities in disaster risk reduction are unique and there has been interest expressed from other countries and from the United Nations in learning from the Canadian experience.

For further information on Canada’s Platform, including how to become a member, please see our website http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/em/ndms/drr-eng.aspx or email the Secretariat (drr-rcc@ps.gc.ca). For copies of the poster, please email the Secretariat.