“It has taken many natural disasters to bring us all together, but now that we are all here let’s go forward together.” The parting words of 100 international young leaders at the world first Looking Beyond Disaster Youth Forum held in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011 continue to resonate.

In an increasingly diverse and connected world, the nature and complexity of challenges facing our global population is constantly changing. Time and time again, young people step forward to engage in community responses to disasters. They are critical stakeholders in efforts to find sustainable solutions.

Youth are some of the most creative, technologically capable and enthusiastic people on earth. With respect for existing wisdom, technical knowledge and expertise, we have frequently demonstrated an openness to collaboration and change. Add in modern technological capability, and young people may be one of the most incredible resources on this planet, given the potential for positive impact that we harbour. And this incredible resource is needed – it has been estimated that, globally since 2005, over 1.5 billion people have been affected by disasters in various ways, with an overall cost of over $1.3 trillion.

No previous global framework has acknowledged the need for youth engagement in disaster risk reduction. However, at the Third UN World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015, the world community has the opportunity to “ensure the engagement of all stakeholders and the participation of... children and youth... in the design and implementation of [disaster risk reduction] policies, plans and standards.” “Children and youth are agents of change and can contribute their experience and should be given the space and modalities to do this” (Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction Zero draft submitted by the co-Chairs of the Preparatory Committee (20 October 2014)).

It is hoped that the Looking Beyond Disaster initiative may offer this “space and modality,” engage youth around the world in disaster risk reduction, and unleash their potential positive impact in a meaningful and coherent way. This Toolkit for youth engagement can be used to catalyse solutions to our local, national, regional and global disaster and climate risk challenges, both now and into the future. This Toolkit is written by youth, for youth, and is designed for use as a practical guide to help your own efforts in tackling disaster risk reduction.