Indigenous Peoples and Disaster Risk Reduction

Blog written by Dr. Simone Athayde
IK photoThe Indigenous Peoples and Disaster Risk Reduction Project is a follow-up project from the “The Risk Interpretation and Action Fellows Seminar,” which was held in December, 2013, in New Zealand. This seminar was coordinated by the WSS Fellows program of the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the RIA working group of the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) program, the IRDR International Center of Excellence Taipei, the International START Secretariat and the Royal Society of New Zealand.

The indigenous peoples and disaster risk reduction project aims to advance the formation of an international network and community of practice of indigenous and non-indigenous scholars, to inter-relate indigenous knowledge into decision and policy–‐making related to natural and human ‐made hazards and disasters. The initial group involved in this initiative includes researchers, faculty and indigenous persons working in New Zealand, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria, United States and China.

The main activities developed by project participants involved: a) joint participation in events; b) organization of webinars; c) organization of an international workshop at University of Florida, with participation of students, faculty and Seminole leaders; d) Developing a video-documentary documenting the knowledge and cultural exchange between project participants and Seminole leaders in Florida; indigenous knowledge logo e) Developing a website for sharing information, building a community of practice and expanding the network; and f) Collectively preparing an academic paper for submission to the “International Journal on Disaster Risk Reduction”.

The video-documentary below, “Learning from the Ancestors”discusses key aspects of indigenous people’s perspectives and approaches to disasters, with a focus on Seminole groups and Hurricanes in Florida. It was co-produced by project PI Simone Athayde and Florida indigenous collaborators Marcus Briggs-Cloud, Herbert Jim, Tawna Little, Naomi Sherwood and Paul Simmons.  The video is organized around three main stages of disaster risk reduction (understanding disasters, preparing for disasters, coping with and learning from disasters), bringing indigenous perspectives and approaches to each one of these stages. The video also promotes awareness around social-environmental justice issues, related to lack of recognition of indigenous peoples’ epistemologies and rights over ancestral lands and natural resources, as well as the need for establishing inclusive, multicultural and transdisciplinary approaches to disaster risk reduction in multiple scales and across borders.

In September of 2015, network participants Dr. Simone Athayde and Dr. Marie-Ange Baudoin participated in a panel organized by the International Social Science Council (ISSC) for the 2015 World Social Science Forum. The Session, “Will Good Governance Bring Sustainable and Equitable Development? Perspectives from the South,” critically explored the extent to which good governance can deliver the promise of growth with equity. Equity in this context is in view of socially, economically and geographically differentiated risk, the reduction of which is underpinned by good risk governance. The starting point for discussions is proposed Sustainable Development Goal 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. The session presenters and participants evaluated this proposition across a variety of policy, sectoral, and distinctive regional and national contexts, specifically focusing on risk mitigation, environmental issues, disaster management, natural resource extraction, and industrialization in the Global South. More importantly, the panel offered an opportunity to think beyond the good governance approach to development, for example, by exploring alternative conceptual frameworks of development (e.g. co-production of knowledge, the return of states in development, and reframing development in terms of citizenship and social justice), as well as draw from a range of empirical cases in Africa, Latin America, and Asia that demonstrate the limits of best practices in development processes.

Report_IK_IRDR_project_finalFollowing the WSS Forum, project leaders Simone Athayde and Marie-Ange Baudoin organized an interactive seminar on September 18 at The University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa, where Marie-Ange works as a Lecturer and Course Convener for the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI). In the seminar, the leaders started developing an interactive tool for co-production of knowledge among the participants, who were encouraged to think and share in groups, indicators of successful academic collaboration. After that, Dr. Athayde presented a video and the research under development among indigenous peoples affected by hydroelectric dams in the Amazon.

Click this link to access the full technical report for the Indigenous Peoples and Disaster Risk Reduction Project.