Policy statements should refer to the importance of disasters, vulnerability, risk and resilience, and commit the organisation to addressing these issues. They should set out the agency’s goals in overcoming the problem, linked to its broader strategic objectives. Commitments to take action are particularly important, but may be vague or rhetorical and are sometimes absent even when the importance of disasters has been acknowledged. Hazard-induced disasters may be placed under the catch-all heading of ‘external shocks and stresses’, which can indicate that the agency concerned is taking a holistic approach to vulnerability, but equally may lead to their particular significance being played down. Nevertheless, even general policy statements are important because they give a mandate to managers and planners within organisations. A specific DRR or resilience policy can be helpful, but may only be feasible for large organisations.
The limitations of policy statements make it essential to provide support at the level of strategic planning. An organisation’s strategy or business plan should not only recognise the importance of DRR, but also set priorities and targets for addressing the challenge over a specified period. These might cover incorporation of hazard/risk/vulnerability questions into project planning guidelines, staff training in issues and methods, assigning responsibility for relevant tasks, giving appropriate authority to those responsible and establishing monitoring and reporting procedures.
Introducing or modifying policies and strategies can be a long and sometimes tortuous process, not least because few development or humanitarian organisations would now contemplate policy, strategy or structural changes without extensive consultations with all their main stakeholders. Considerable time, effort and money may be spent on this. Senior managers are generally unwilling to revise policies or strategies unless they are convinced it is necessary, and only after seeing the impact of those already in place. The up-front costs of the necessary training and capacity-building can be substantial, whereas it may take some time before the benefits of changes are felt. Nevertheless, in most agencies policy or strategy review seems to be a semi-permanent condition, which should give grounds for optimism about the uptake of relevant ideas and approaches in the medium and long term.
Whatever form they take, all attempts to promote or mainstream DRR, resilience and other related issues into organisations’ work should be based on a coherent ‘theory of change’: that is, a clear and explicit understanding or set of assumptions about how beneficial, long-term change happens, both within the organisation itself and in those groups and societies it aims to support. Theory of change is also important in project planning (Chapter 3) and monitoring and evaluation (Chapter 18).