The relation between Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and youth protection through education is crucial for RET in Latin America. Both fields seek to guarantee rights compliance (with a humanitarian aid perspective) where minimum needs are satisfied and violence is mitigated. Both prevent crisis through access to means of protection and basic services. So, if both pursue similar goals, can they not be combined for greater impact? This has been the question on which RET has been innovating for the last 4 years in Colombia and the region.
At RET we have an effective strategy for youth protection, which is education. It is no coincidence that our motto is “Protecting Through Education”. By engaging in formal and non-formal education, it is possible to physically, psychologically and cognitively protect young people. Education provides safe spaces and structure, where relationships and actions can be developed. It creates an environment in which young people may once again construct their future.
Through our projects, we have considered Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) as an essential element in youth protection, while always stressing the fundamental role of education. Our experience shows that education and DRR are mutually re-enforcing components of protection.
As for most complex issues, results are rarely obtained by pulling on a single lever. Part of RET’s action, for example, seeks to make public policies related to DRR more inclusive of young people’s protection rights. In collaboration with UNICEF and the Organisation of American States (OEA), RET created high quality manuals for governments. These guides help decision makers and civil servants include the rights of young people in DRR policies and actions.
Acting upon education professionals and decision makers is of course crucial. However, RET’s perspective is that youth should not only be considered; they should also be actors of change. Therein lies another lever RET uses to achieve tangible results.
Youth involvement in the community’s prevention and mitigation of disasters offers two main advantages, which are closely related, like two sides of a same coin. First of all, young people have a lot to say and thus represent an untapped source of information, ideas and motivation. Not considering them would be a regrettable waste of resources. Secondly, essential protection skills are rarely acquired in the classroom alone. Opportunities to take on meaningful responsibilities in the community are how such skills are developed.
Youth engagement is a win-win strategy. It simultaneously provides vulnerable young people with the protection skills they lack and provides the community with additional resources to prevent and mitigate disasters. This is why education and DRR can be efficiently combined to provide protection.
With this in mind, RET has created a methodology named “Recreational and Pedagogical Days for the Empowerment of Children and Youth in DRR”. It empowers young people to become actors of change, creating secure social and physical environments. Nearly 300 participants engaged in direct actions in their communities. This methodology has even been incorporated in CORELAC (a coalition composed of UNISDR, UNICEF, World Vision, Save the Children, Plan International and RET) and served as a model for the development of a guide by the OEA. Also, by using social networks, such as the Facebook page “El Echo”, RET contributes to the documentation and dissemination of key messages of young people working in DRR.
Finally, RET is engaged in increasing the visibility of young people as actors in DRR in events such as the Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction of the Americas. The next session of which is to be held from 27-29 May 2014. RET creates a regional representation in Latin America in view of its active participation in the World Conference for Disaster Reduction to be held in Hyogo, Japan in 2015 (www.unisdr.org/we/coordinate/hfa). A high impact event, which will redefine the Hyogo Framework for Action, a global effort to explain, describe and detail the work that is required from all different sectors and actors to reduce disaster losses.
From the local to the regional to the global; from concrete on the ground action to advocacy, this is how RET seeks to protect vulnerable young people: holistically.