Introduction: Saving Lives & Protecting Rights

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A Message from Biranchi Upadhyaya

International Director of Programmes, on behalf of the Senior Leadership Team, ActionAid International


Biranchi Upadhyaya

We know that a range of factors including climate change, the global economic situation and continuing poor governance are resulting in more intense, more frequent and more complex disasters. As always, it is people living in poverty and exclusion who are the most vulnerable, and bear the brunt of such crises.

At the same time, at ActionAid we recognise the potential that emergencies provide for engaging and mobilising communities to assert and claim their rights from those in power. I have experienced this in several contexts, and am convinced that responding to emergencies is crucial to our overall poverty reduction and development agenda. Our new organisational strategy articulates this as one of our key objectives.

By 2017, we aim to have assisted at least five million people experiencing disasters or conflicts in ways which respect and strengthen rights, support recovery of livelihoods, empower women and promote solutions for long-term change (Key Change Promise 8, People’s rights to end poverty). The emphasis here is not necessarily on what we do in emergencies, rather how we do it.

This handbook provides practical guidance on how to ensure ActionAid and the communities we work with are prepared for disasters, and able to respond immediately. But beyond this it aims to articulate how we can operationalise our human rights-based approach in emergencies, so we are not only addressing basic needs (which we recognise as basic rights) but supporting communities to analyse and address their vulnerabilities to the multiple hazards they face.

Building resilience is a critical component of both ActionAid’s emergency response and our longer term development programming, and one that we hope will help lessen the impact of future disasters on the most vulnerable people we work with. This handbook is a key tool in facilitating that process.

Biranchi Upadhyaya

Biranchi Upadhyaya, International Director of Programmes, ActionAid