policy statement

I. The International Commission on Survivor-Centered Disaster Recovery is a collective of scholars, practitioners, and advocates, many of whom are survivors, concerned with and committed to ensuring a greater role for individuals and communities affected by catastrophe.


II. We are committed to the official recognition that survivors are the primary agents in their own recovery and require a leading voice in determining their priorities and modes of achieving them.  Our goal is to advocate for policies, practices, and interventions that

  • acknowledge survivors’ leadership;

  • compensate survivors’ work appropriately and adequately; 

  • distribute resources according to survivors’ determination of the needs of their communities;

  • enable full participation of survivors in all dimensions of making and implementing policies, decisions, and interventions in disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and reconstruction.


III. Accordingly, official responders need to adjust their policies, methods, interventions, and distribution of resources to fully incorporate survivors in all areas of disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and reconstruction as follows: 

  • Official responders must recognize affected individuals and communities as active agents and not dismiss them as incapacitated by their struggles. Treating disaster survivors merely as passive victims impedes their recovery.

  • Official responders should adjust predetermined plans in order to honor and build on plans already in place and favored by survivors. Most survivors of disaster are active agents in their recovery. When official agents arrive, in most cases, the survivors, both as individuals and as a community, have initiated and are leading efforts toward recovery.

  • Official responders should acknowledge and defer to survivors as the leading experts on their own existing resources and modes of recovery. These resources include traditional cultural practices; knowledge of the local history, geography, and ecosystem; distribution of economic resources such as material, food, and shelter; effective modes of leadership; and social networks for providing care.

  • Official responders, in order to facilitate greatest participation, must communicate in accessible language, including local dialects, jargon-free speech, and, as necessary, oral as well as written forms. Local communities already communicate effectively, and official responders should follow their lead without recourse to legal, medical, or bureaucratic jargon.