Current Measures to Address the Social Vulnerability of Children in Disaster Risk Reduction - Exploring the European Union’s Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy1

TAYLOR, Genevievea

a National Centre for Research on Europe, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New

Abstract — To reflect the increased global recognition of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), the European Union has generated a common DRR strategy under the European Community Humanitarian Office, ECHO, or more specifically its Disaster Preparedness mechanism, DIPECHO. As the EU classes DRR as humanitarian assistance, its DRR policy tend to surround a needs-based approach to disaster risk management, focussing on addressing immediate risks to natural disasters, where slow onset risks are often labelled as a causal factor, and thus a development issue. Such classifications can generate a grey area in managing initial and slow onset risks, where particularly susceptible groups can face increased vulnerability. Children represent one vulnerable societal group where social risks may go unacknowledged in DRR strategies. Often the risks identified in DRR policies focus on technical or infrastructural risks associated with disasters, and social risks tend to be disregarded. DRR policies tends to discount social vulnerability, as social risks are considered too difficult to quantify. While recognition of vulnerabilities surrounding disasters is essential to policy formation, this must be coupled with acknowledgement of the resilience of social groups, including children. While there has been a positive shift in the EU’s recognition of children in several of its foreign policy initiatives, this paper assesses whether this recognition is fully reflected in its current DRR policy or programming.

Keywords — European Union, disaster risk reduction, social vulnerability, child rights, human rights

1  Introduction

When a disaster occurs children are often overlooked, yet they can be the worst affected. At the time of a natural disaster children may be frightened or traumatised, while also being at risk of separation from their families, without forms of identification, and can become potential victims to many forms of exploitation or abuse. While a disaster cannot be avoided, such risks faced by children can be prevented or lessened. Often disaster response comes to an end and recovery and reconstruction programmes have not yet commenced, generating a grey area where the protection of children and their rights are neglected. By reinforcing child-centric measures in DRR programming to reduce the risks of a disaster faced by children, such a grey area can be avoided. This paper adopts a holistic approach to such risks by recognising all such dangers faced by children during and after a disaster. The risks children can be exposed to during and after a disaster are diverse. They may vary from health concerns of malnutrition or diseases, to physical injuries such as disabilities, abuse and exploitation, for example, through participation in forced labour or as child soldiers or sexual abuse. Psychological damage, increased poverty or separation from their families, are long-term effects that also need to be considered. Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) policy formation and subsequent programming assist in reducing risks throughout the disaster cycle. Children represent one vulnerable societal group where social risks may be under-acknowledged in DRR strategies. Often the risks identified in DRR policies focus on technical or infrastructural risks associated with disasters, and social risks tend to be disregarded. DRR policies tend to discount social vulnerability, as social risks are considered too difficult to quantify. While recognition of vulnerabilities surrounding disasters is essential to policy formation, this must be coupled with acknowledgement of the resilience of social groups, including children, and a child’s right to resilience. Child rights are confirmed under the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Established in 1989, the UNCRC is currently the most ratified UN Convention in the world with 194 signatories, including all Member States (United Nations Treaty Collection, 2010.). The UNCRC legally binds international actors into protecting all areas of human rights, whether social, economic or political (UNICEF, 2009). While the UNCRC does not specifically mention a child’s right to resilience, or the protection of children and their rights in context of disasters, and surrounds a more political or legal context, its content is transferable and valid in relation to natural disasters. The UNCRC ensures the protection by states of the four main principles of: non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, the right to life, survival and development, and also the views of the child (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2009), all of which encompass a child’s right to resilience. Often such rights are disregarded during and immediately after a humanitarian crisis as chaos ensues and consequently children are overlooked. It is crucial states and international organisations conform to this Convention when addressing child rights in DRR legislation, to ensure their efforts in protecting children and their rights in DRR policies are consistent and comprehensive This paper adds to current literature previously generated in peripheral fields of social vulnerability, European foreign policy and the protection of children and their rights in disaster risk reduction policies, and the role of human rights in humanitarian assistance or immediate aid. It amalgamates these themes to discuss the inclusion of child rights within the European Union’s (EU) DRR policy and subsequent programming through a rights-based approach. A rights-based approach to DRR assists in integrating rights further into DRR policy and subsequent programming. This approach not only highlights children as vulnerable, with specific risks and needs in times of disaster, but also their potential resilience and autonomy in the different stages of the disaster cycle. Participation in DRR policy formation and programming can assist with a rights-based approach to community-based disaster risk management, where groups are empowered at a local level. As the world’s largest humanitarian aid donor agency, the Directorate General for the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) has over the last decade had an increased awareness in DRR, which mirrors those efforts of states and humanitarian organisations in DRR projects and policies since the formation of the Hyogo Framework Agreement in 2005. There has also been acknowledgment from DRR actors of the need to recognise children as not only vulnerable throughout the disaster cycle, but also as social capital in disaster risk management. This paper first discusses social vulnerability in the context of natural disasters, which is expanded on within the scope of child vulnerability or resilience surrounding disasters. The subsequent section presents a rights-based approach to children and DRR, to highlight a child’s right to resilience and all the rights that encompasses. More specifically, this conceptual platform helps to evaluate the case of the European Union, where the final section looks particularly at EU foreign policy formation and areas where the supranational entity has recognised children in its DRR strategy, as part of its external action.

2  Social vulnerability in the context of natural disasters

Attributing the causal factors of a disaster to nature, rather than societal constructs, may be successful in averting technical or geographical risks, yet does little to lessen the effects of social risks faced by vulnerable groups. Gilbert (1995) considers a disaster as disturbing societal relationships, and the progressive dissolution of the relationships between local actors and processes. Dombrowsky (1995) takes this notion further, referring to the works of Carr (1932), with the perception of disasters as not only consequences but causal factors of disasters where imbalanced social structures are then put under pressure when natural forces overwhelm the system. The end of the 20th century saw a spike in research focussed on sociological and epistemological aspects of disasters (See Dombrowsky 1981; Dombrowsky 1995; Hewitt, 1983; Hewitt 1995; Hewitt 1997; Kreps, 1985; Oliver-Smith; 1999; Quarantelli, 1999a; Quarantelli, 1999b; Wisner, 2004), representing a shift away from the dominant view of disasters as a technical study. Phillips et al. (2010:13.) state that the rise in social-centric disaster research has resulted in the substantiation of social vulnerability as being closely intertwined with local history and the governing and economic constructs of communities, where the "characteristics of a disaster resilient society – or the lack thereof – are noticeable in these studies," (Phillips, Ibid).

Previously, such a humanistic approach to disasters was overshadowed by the science-based approach to disaster research where nature is the root cause of disasters, and addressed through technical means. Hewitt (1997:5) explains while the majority of those undertaking disaster research would not reject the idea there are economic and social aspects associated with the risks of a crisis, the dominant argument positions these influences as dependent on the geophysical nature of disasters.

“My own background is research into the physical environment and geo-hazards. Yet, I have come to believe that social understanding and socially just and appropriate action are the more crucial issues for the contemporary disaster scene. And while I would welcome a clearer picture of the social content of this work (…), the main problematic for us does seem to be the social construction of disaster. That concerns the often covert and taken-for granted way in which social conditions or ‘realities’ shape how we think about and act toward disasters.” (Hewitt, 1998: 76)

This shift in mind-set is increasing amongst the disaster community. However, recognition of social risks is yet to be mainstreamed amongst policy makers and practitioners, both in the international and domestic context. Firstly, they remain restrictive to primarily addressing physical risks, where social risks are all too often considered as too difficult to quantify. This is chiefly the case in the phases of assessment, and monitoring and evaluation in disaster management. Secondly, while immediate risks may be captured, slow onset risks can be regarded as a developmental issue, and consequently ignored in other phases of disaster risk management, such as through DRR programming. This is the case for many of social groups which face slow onset risks. The following section looks specifically at child social vulnerability, with a discussion of responses to immediate and slow onset risks.

3  A discussion of child vulnerability and child resilience

“You need to do much more than you are doing to reduce risks. Why should any children look like this if they are malnourished, or crushed, or flooded? We should be saying ’Why? How can you accept this?” (Ressler, 2003)

The statement above from Ressler, published a decade before time of writing this paper still applies today. Children form a sector of society extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. The risks children can be exposed to during and after a disaster are diverse as they vary from immediate consequences such as family separation or physical injuries abuse to longer term issues of malnutrition, diseases, abuse, exploitation, psychological damage, or increased poverty. It is estimated the number of children under the age of fifteen affected by climate-related disasters alone will be increased in the next ten years to an estimated 175 million children per year (UNICEF, 2010: 10). Along with infrequent disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis, increases of natural disasters due to the adverse impacts of climate change render children more susceptible to threats to their wellbeing and their right to protection. Director of the Swedish Commission on Climate Change and Development, Johan Schaar supports this stating: "the effects of longer and more intense droughts, repeated floods and shifting seasons are severely hampering their education and creating community pressures that result in children being more at risk from economic and sexual exploitation. Consequently, climate change is causing child rights to become even more difficult to safeguard, as adults, communities and governments do not fully appreciate the threats to their children’s future or are increasingly powerless to fulfil their responsibilities to protect them," (Polack, 2010).

Despite this recognition of slow onset risks, and the need for a more proactive approach to risk reduction, states have a tendency to focus on supporting children after a disaster by tending to their immediate needs, and long-term effects are disregarded. Often, only risks which occur as an immediate repercussion of a disaster are accounted for within disaster management strategies, whereas other risks such as abuse, exploitation, intra-family violence, or trafficking are ignored in policy formation, despite their on-going nature rendering them potentially more detrimental to a child’s future. Child vulnerability such as abuse or exploitation following a disaster, are not confined to rapid onset disasters such as tsunamis or earthquakes. Children located in countries susceptible to slow onset climate-related disasters such as heat-waves, droughts, floods, flash-floods, or mudslides can also be exposed to such threats to their wellbeing, yet often it is the repercussions of these frequent, low impact disasters which go undetected (UNICEF, 2012: 45). Current international and national DRR frameworks often do not acknowledge physical and psychological abuse and exploitation as a repercussion of a disaster or included in disaster mitigation strategies. While states may believe longer-term effects should be left to subsequent phases of development, often these risks fall into the grey area between immediate aid and development, and children remain vulnerable. Such a superficial approach in policy formation marginalises children. Not only are community structures not in place to reduce said risks in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, children are also not prepared for the associated risks of other impending crises. These aspects of the social vulnerability of children must be acknowledged within DRR strategies through the adoption of a preventative rather than reactive response to risks in order to avoid this grey area.

By adopting holistic approach to child vulnerability, and embedded the subsequent needs within DRR policies and subsequent programming is not, however, to say that children are inherently vulnerable surrounding a disaster. Tierney and Oliver-Smith describe ‘social units’ as having specific ‘assets and deficiencies’ surrounding a disaster (Tierney and Oliver-Smith, 2012: 129). Often the stress is on the latter, rather than the former. Children are often stereotyped as passive victims or as being dependent on adults, and rarely considered as social capital. On the contrary, children often can have a fundamental role to play in all phases of disaster risk management, through the participation in DRR policy formation and subsequent action at a local level. In recovery phases, children also may need to act independently, for instance if their parents have been displaced, or are occupied with post-disaster recovery actions. In the context of manmade disasters, Hart and Tryer (2006: 10) support children should not be considered as irrefutably vulnerable, as during and after a disaster, children often need to make decisions, act autonomously, and care for themselves and possibly additional family members. This is not only a benefit to provide a different lens to reducing the disaster risks, but the right of children to participate in both the formation of those policy formation and the implementation of those policies.

4  A rights-based approach to disaster risk reduction and children

The basis of the human right-based approach to disaster management transcends the provision of immediate humanitarian assistance in the form of disaster relief, as implemented through a needs based approach. Instead, this approach recognises the right of individuals and communities to protection and resilience throughout the disaster cycle by acknowledging both physical and social risks in both DRR policy formation and subsequent DRR project implementation. Alongside this acknowledgement of social vulnerability, is the requirement of policy makers and practitioners to empower social groups through participation in the decision-making process, whilst remaining accountable and transparent in their implementation phases of the resultant policy. As a report from the humanitarian policy unit of UNICEF (2003) indicates, “A human rights-based approach to programming places equal emphasis on outcomes and the process by which outcomes for children and women are achieved.” When evaluating human rights within the sphere of DRR, the implementation of DRR policies can itself become an issue of human rights. Carmalt and Dale (2012: 67) explain that the creation of DRR policies indicates a respect for the human right to protection, in this case against a hazard or risks of disaster, and as a consequence the employ of such legislation will then protect the lives of those at risk. Whereas, if a state is aware of a frequent or infrequent form of disaster which it is vulnerable to but does not generate a DRR policy, it is in breach of its obligation to protect its citizens and their right to life, (Carmalt and Dale, 2012: 68). By embedding human rights into DRR strategies, rights will not be disregarded during a time of crisis, as the policy will ensure community structures are strengthened to protect children and their rights. Thus, acknowledgement of specific social groups, which may be at risk during disasters, including children, and their rights must be taken into consideration in disaster management policy formation to cover the entire disaster cycle. The universality of human rights is progressively being recognised through the upholding of humanitarian principles by states and donors, where the Good Humanitarian Principles of independence, humanity, neutrality and impartiality underpin many of the humanitarian and development policies of states and donors, (Development Initiatives, 2011: 91). Conversely, such policies continue to be based on the provision of immediate aid, or a needs-based approach rather than employing a human rights-based approach to disaster management. Indeed, the UNICEF unit also indicated a lack of support of a human rights approach by humanitarian agencies: “This belief stems from a tendency to understand the human rights-based approach as limited to civil and political rights, and to discount the collapse of the (even limited) enjoyment of social and economic rights which also tends to happen in crisis situations. Believing that the safeguard of human rights should wait until the armed conflict or emergency is over is counter-productive.” (UNICEF, 2003: 3). It may be a change in attitude is required for policy makers to implement a rights-based approach to DRR. Rather than focussing on the vulnerability of social groups, marginalised groups can be considered as resilient in certain aspects of disaster management (see Jones et al, 2010, 3; De Bruijne, Mark et al. 2010; 13). While they have specific needs, they also have specific capabilities in a disaster context. By indicating a child’s right to resilience (which therefore embraces all the individual associated rights under the UNCRC applicable to a disaster context), rather than explicitly citing a child’s right to protection in policy formation, infers not only their vulnerability but is complemented by embracing the aptitudes of the child to be resilient. The acknowledgement of the right to resilience will facilitate dialogue surrounding children and DRR strategies at all levels (international, national and local), through a positive shift in attitudes toward children in disaster risk management. Participation in the creation of policies is an important aspect of a rights-based approach to disaster risk management, and assists in a child’s resilience, particularly through local-level initiatives. Involvement of vulnerable groups in legislative processes results in the voicing of the actual risks and concerns of those communities who must deal with the aftermath a disaster (Futumura et al, 2011). Instead of foreign powers coercing or regulating those at risk, it is more effective to empower them to construct accountable, community-based solutions to the crises situations (Kaldor, 2007: 285). During and post-disaster, children form one of the groups who are most at risk when there is a crisis, yet are the least listened to. In the past children have also been seen as unimportant or incompetent, and consequently are excluded from the formation of policies. Not only is it a child’s right to participate in disaster mitigation and policy formation under Articles 12 and 13 of the UNCRC (United Nations Treaty Collection, 2010), they can provide a different insight to a situation or potential risk to that of adults. Hart and Tryer (2006: 4) confirm there is an increasing belief that a person is still able to influence their own, or someone else’s, life for the better, no matter what their status in society. Peek (2008) supports this, stating how certain attributes of children such as their intelligence, imagination, vitality and access to social networking exemplify the different means through which children can contribute before, during or after a disaster. Many humanitarian organisations have been involved in increasing child participation by performing focus groups with children in countries prone to disasters. In one research report, Plan International states: “By providing the opportunity to be directly involved in disaster risk reduction activities, young people can develop skills to be better prepared for potential threats, and participate in efforts to protect their safety and wellbeing,” (Plan International, 2010). Case studies by scholars and humanitarian organisations alike carried out in certain at-risk regions, such as the Asia-Pacific, have shown that children are keen to contribute to local DRR activities and are capable of doing so, while also being aware of potential risks associated with a disaster that can threaten their survival, (Polack, 2010; Mitchell et al, 2008; Plan International and World Vision, 2009; UNICEF. 2007). In the Philippines, the relocation of a school, necessary due to dangerous landslides, caused controversy as most adults were against the repositioning, while the children were in favour of the move. By utilising student bodies to support their rationale and coordinating with the local authorities, the students’ proposal gained a strong majority in the final vote to relocate the school on a safer site and was built to withstand earthquakes (Plan International, 2007). In Cambodia, children were conscious of their right to protection and identified threats such as child labour, malnutrition or poverty as consequences of droughts that would necessitate such protection (Polack, 2010). Such an approach has been acknowledged by the EU, as exemplified in the 2008 Action plan on Child Rights in External Action, which highlights the need to respect the views of children and adolescents (European Commission, 2008). Such objectives must be supported by empowerment opportunities for children to develop relevant leadership and negotiation skills, interaction with child advocates and those involved with children, and capacity-building within the authorities to allow for effective child participation (European Commission, 2008).

5  Assessing the EU’s recognition of children and child rights in its disaster risk reduction strategy

EU values, present and upheld throughout EU legislation encompass the respect for, and defence of, human rights. Recent decades have demonstrated an increasing acknowledgement from the EU of the importance of protecting human rights. This has been depicted in the recognition of human rights in EU law, both in independent human rights legislation such as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, (European Commission, 2000) and by consciously embedding human rights into focal areas of EU legislation, including the EU Consensus for Humanitarian Aid, to underpin any action it participates in when there is a disaster, and coincide with other overarching external action mechanisms, such as the Common Foreign and Security Policy, where EU principals of upholding human rights, governance and rule of law are firmly established. In spite of this, these fundamental values portrayed in the umbrella guiding documents of EU foreign policy do not necessary filter down to the individual mechanisms, such as DRR, where the rights of vulnerable groups such as children are not mentioned.

EU umbrella external policies have recently integrated child rights into EU humanitarian aid policies. Article 39 of the 2007 Consensus for Humanitarian Aid highlights the vulnerability of children and some protection strategies for gender or sexual abuse (European Community, 2007: Article 39). The creation of the Commission Communication "A Special Place for Children in EU External Action," and two supporting working documents in 2008, have become fundamental in promoting a rights-based approach to children and the protection of their rights in EU humanitarian action during times of crisis (European Commission, 2008). The Communication affirms the responsibility of the EU and Member States to international and regional agreements, while broadly stating the areas of EU external policy where children and adolescents can participate, such as in trade policy, political dialogue, development cooperation and humanitarian aid (European Commission, 2008: 7). The adjoining working document, "Children in Emergency and Crisis situations", presents itself as a general outline of the dangers children are exposed to in crises situations while including preventative measures to specific threats. This is a promising initiative to address the vulnerability of children and risks they face, yet is not all-encompassing of the potential forms of exploitation or trauma children can face after a natural or manmade disaster.

The above child-centric policy package has become fundamental in promoting a rights-based approach to children and the protection of their rights in EU humanitarian action during times of crisis. The policy package takes a predominantly holistic approach in highlighting immediate and slow onset risks and child vulnerability, attached to both natural and manmade disasters. However, these overarching guidelines addressing child vulnerability in external action do not translate to the specific policy area of DRR, where reference to child risks remains minimal and if alluded to, only apply to immediate risks of natural disasters, not within the field of manmade disasters, nor are long-term risks acknowledged.

This Communication, as an existing EU external action policy is supported by the Lisbon Treaty, but was implemented under Article 180 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (European Community, 2002), and does not have the same validity as if it were instituted under the Lisbon Treaty. Yet the Lisbon Treaty provides EU humanitarian action with a legal basis for such policy formation. Under Article 214 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union, the EU’s humanitarian aid policy became an independent policy as a function of EU external actions (Caprile, 2009: 18). As a result, the 2009 Communication was an excellent foundation to formulate the EU’s strategic basis for future DRR actions under the new legal basis.

While there have been some significant legislative developments by the EU and certain Member States towards respecting child rights, there is still much room for improvement to ensure harmonisation of child rights policies across Europe, both in internal and foreign policy formation. Institutional changes under the Lisbon Treaty represent various opportunities for the EU to streamline its external action mechanisms, and assist with coherence amongst its Member States, thus promoting a more united and influential interface as a global actor. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, with the assistance of the European External Action Service (EEAS), gives the EU the potential to act in a more unified manner in its external relations (Duke, 2008: 15). The EEAS brings together the various areas of EU foreign policy, in particular the Common Foreign and Security Policy and European Security and Defence Policy, in conjunction with Member States’ diplomatic services (Quille, 2009:5). While representing a form of EU external action, humanitarian aid, and by association DRR, remains yet to be incorporated into the EEAS. Such a decision to exclude humanitarian aid and DRR from under the umbrella of the EEAS was based on the reasoning that humanitarian aid, and by association DRR, should continue to be independently administered by DG ECHO. As stated in a European Parliament Policy Briefing of the Lisbon Treaty, DG ECHO can then continue to act autonomously, without the "potential ‘imposition’ of foreign policy priorities" (Caprile, 2009:19).

One of the goals of the Lisbon Treaty is to streamline the EU’s mechanisms for external action and become more cohesive. This has been achieved in one facet of external action through the 2010 Joint Communication on EU civil protection and humanitarian assistance, to create a European Emergency Response Capacity for disaster response, based on Member States assets and pre-determined contingency plans, (European Commission, 2010). The initiative transfers the civil protection mechanism to be administered under ECHO, but with the support and implementation of the EEAS. Focussing on response, the initiative identifies the complementarity of DRR programming, particularly by "maximising synergies between DRR and adaptation to climate change, so that, for example, financial support for prevention, recovery and reconstruction activities increase resilience to future crises," (European Commission, 2010: 6).

This is a valuable statement in mainstreaming DRR through specific external action mechanisms. But what of the rights-based approach which Lady Ashton (European Commission, 2011: 4) famously stated as ‘running as a silver thread through a truly integrated range of external policies,’ to underpin EEAS action? In theory, the universality of the rights of marginalised groups is recognised throughout EU external action policy and subsequent action. The implementation of the joint initiative could in effect have two outcomes for the conveyance of human rights in disaster risk management. One could argue the European Emergency Response Capacity harmonises EU external action mechanisms to result in a cohesive policy response and European engagement in a disaster setting, therefore assisting in the defence of human rights. The joint initiative of the EEAS with its humanitarian equivalent, ECHO, where rights are often considered to be subordinate to immediate needs, would then substantiate the upholding of human rights, as one of the founding values of the European Community. Alternatively, mergers of external action instruments could hinder the upholding of EU values such as human rights, by operating through separate EU agencies, and national priorities can impinge on the delivery of assistance. As a consequence human rights could be side-lined in lieu of an immediate, rapid response to a disaster scenario by the EU, where indeed a needs-based approach is assumed, and rights are considered to be part of the future phases of reconstruction or development assistance.

6  Conclusion

A comprehensive DRR policy to enhance community resilience will strengthen social structures within a community and result in a strategy to protect and utilise those structures when a disaster takes place. As a result, the associated social vulnerability of children surrounding a disaster is avoided, or at best lessened. Despite states approving the International DRR Framework of Hyogo and performing subsequent progress reports, and humanitarian principles underpinning domestic policies, increased knowledge exchange between actors at all levels is needed for DRR programming to address child vulnerability and increase child resilience. The EU and its Member States are not immune to this lack of effectiveness in knowledge sharing in DRR partnerships. Nevertheless, it has the strength legislatively and financially to regulate this. The primary barrier in achieving a comprehensive DRR strategy towards children for the EU surround its institutional configuration for external action, chiefly due to an overlap of roles of EU agencies and implementing barriers for European and third country governments and partner organisations. Both of these factors impede effective assistance and in turn lead to a grey area between humanitarian and development assistance. By reinforcing a child’s right to resilience within EU DRR policies to reduce the risks faced by children, this grey area can be avoided. It necessitates embracing not only immediate threats but pre-existing and long-term threats in order to fully protect children throughout the disaster cycle. While this could cause institutional complications between EU agencies, ECHO and the EEAS, it would also be founded on the EU’s common values of respecting child rights, and thus assist in intertwining EU values and its external policy objectives. Such a policy would increase the EU’s participation in child-focussed DRR projects in the global arena, and support third countries in the implementation of their own disaster management and disaster risk reduction strategies. It is hoped that with the new legal foundation for humanitarian aid and DRR under Lisbon, a comprehensive policy can be formulated based on a rights-based approach to address child rights in external action, as the rights of those at risk are yet to be confirmed in a DRR strategy. This approach must be mirrored in EU Member States domestic humanitarian aid and DRR policies as there has been little acknowledgement of the need for child participation in Member States. The integration of child rights into EU external policies, particularly EU humanitarian aid policies, shows promise but given the lack of cohesion amongst Member States and incomprehension of all risks faced by children during times of crisis, there is much from for improvement. For the EU to be effective as a global actor in the area of DRR, harmonisation of Member States’ policies, and the recognition of children in such policies, is essential. By including children who are at risk in policy formation, local vulnerability is then mitigated through grass-roots child-centred external action.


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This article is based on a presentation given during the 4th International Disaster and Risk Conference IDRC Davos 2012, held 26-30 August 2012 in Davos, Switzerland (