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More than a checkbox: engaging youth in disaster risk reduction and resilience in Canada


As the risks and costs associated with disasters and climate change escalate, international, national, and regional governments are searching for ways to increase citizen engagement, as well as develop innovations and investments to reduce disaster risks and enhance climate change adaptation. As a signatory to the Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction (DRR), Canada has committed to a whole of society approach to DRR that includes engaging youth as credible stakeholders. Historically, in the context of disasters, young people (children and youth) have more often been framed one-dimensionally as a population at high risk of experiencing negative impacts during disasters, and, therefore, a population in need of protection. However, youth have more recently been recognized as having potential as change agents in their communities and stakeholders in the development and implementation of DRR policies and practices (Cox et al. in Int J Disaster Risk Reduct 22:249–356, 2017). As the first digitally native generation, youth today are equipped with unprecedented technological savvy, an entrepreneurial orientation, and confidence in their ability to change the world. From this perspective, youth, aged 15–24, stand poised as a significant capacity multiplier in Canada’s efforts to reduce the risks and impacts associated with disasters and climate change. This paper explores the current state of youth engagement in DRR in Canada and opportunities for extending and deepening that engagement.

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We would like to thank many youth who shared their expertise and perspectives with us. We also gratefully acknowledge the funding from Alberta Innovates Health Solutions and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada to Dr. Cox that supported this work.

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Correspondence to Robin S. Cox.

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Cox, R.S., Hill, T.T., Plush, T. et al. More than a checkbox: engaging youth in disaster risk reduction and resilience in Canada. Nat Hazards 98, 213–227 (2019).

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  • Youth and disasters
  • Youth engagement
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Disaster resilience
  • Climate change
  • Disasters