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Report calls for radical reforms to reduce inequality

Clogged drainage channels in the sprawling Korogocho slums of Nairobi. Poor waste disposal is an inherent health danger to the residents. The narrow channels empty their contents into the Nairobi River highly polluting it. Such poor waste disposal is a ri
Waweru Mugo/IRIN

The hunger afflicting millions of people in the world’s poorest regions will not end unless there is radical shift in governance and development work toward narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, says a new report by the aid agency Oxfam.

According to the report, No Accident: Resilience and inequality of risk, the current focus on building resilience among the poorest women and men is promising, but more could be achieved if “risk is more equally shared globally and across societies”.

“This will require a major shift in development work, which for too long has avoided dealing with risk,” the report says. “More fundamentally, it will require challenging the inequality that exposes poor people to far more risk than the rich.”

“Real resilience”

The report calls for efforts to not only help the poor and vulnerable survive shocks, but to “help them thrive despite shocks, stresses, and uncertainty.” It calls this goal “real resilience”.

“Building skills and capacity must go alongside tackling the inequality and injustice that make poor women and men more vulnerable in the first place. This means challenging the social, economic and political institutions that lock in security for some, but vulnerability for many, by redistributing power and wealth (and with them, risk) to build models of shared societal risk,” the report says.

Coupled with conflict, climate change and related disasters have compounded the world’s humanitarian challenges, putting millions of people at risk of both poverty and food insecurity. This has led to calls for humanitarian approaches that help people cope in the face of these disasters. Resilience has gained prominence as a humanitarian and developmental approach to these disasters.

For instance, in the Sahel, where up to 10.3 million people are at risk of going hungry, building resilience is at the core of aid agencies’ 2013 Common Humanitarian Action Plan.

Debbie Hillier, Oxfam humanitarian policy advisor and author of the report, said in a blog post that “the newly fashionable focus on resilience can help communities not only to cope but to thrive despite the shocks and stresses, but only if the current resilience dialogue and practice is broadened out to tackle inequality, redistribute risk and stop risk dumping”.

She noted, “States have the legal and political responsibility to reduce the risks faced by poor people and ensure that they are borne more evenly across society.”

The report’s authors recommend national governments provide leadership on building resilience and reducing inequality. “Identifying, analyzing and managing risk must be a fundamental aspect of development,” they say.

In a recent policy brief, the Institute for Sustainable Development, ISD, said that resilient thinking does not always “ensure that the most marginal are systematically benefiting from resilience interventions.”


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