10 Jul 2012
Recently, the World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction was held on 2-4 July in Sendai City, Japan. The Conference was about how to build resilient societies and to mainstream disaster risk reduction at the local, national, and regional levels. It is also an opportunity to be part of the consultation process, initiated in March by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), to shape the agenda for disaster risk reduction beyond the Hyogo Framework for Action, which expires in 2015.
The Conference highlighted the need to build resilient nations and communities to address their vulnerability to disasters. It also provided a platform to share lessons learnt from large- scale disasters and to shape the agenda for disaster risk reduction beyond the Hyogo Framework for Action which expires in 2015. The latter was adopted by 168 countries, including Rwanda, in 2005 to make the world safer by putting in place national disaster risk reduction policies and strategies.
Disaster Risk Reduction is a serious development challenge. While no country is immune to disasters associated with natural hazards, we are all well aware that there is much which can be done to reduce their impact by better preparing citizens and communities to withstand the related shocks and disruption.
Globally, the number of disasters and their human and economic impacts substantially increased over the last decades. In 2011, 332 natural disasters were registered all over the world, less than the average annual disaster frequency observed from 2001 to 2010 (384) but their human and economic impacts were considerable. In 2011 natural disasters killed a total of 30.773 people and caused 244.7 million victims in the world. Economic damages from natural disasters were the highest ever registered, with an estimated US$ 366.1 billion.
Not surprisingly, the vast majority of those affected live in developing countries. Studies show that the poor are exposed to much greater risk from natural hazards.
Rwanda is also vulnerable to natural hazards and disasters. Over the last decade, the frequency and intensity of natural hazard-induced disasters, particularly floods and droughts, have significantly increased, raising the toll of human casualties as well as economic and environmental losses.
Between January and May 2012, Rwanda experienced some abnormal heavy rains. The average of rainfall increased from 40-70 mm in 2011 to 80-115mm in 2012 for the same period. This resulted in floods and landslides and in the destruction of public infrastructure and people’s properties. From January to May 2012, 32 people perished, 1434 houses, 11 roads, 4 bridges as well as 3 dykes have been destroyed, 2227 ha of crops have been washed away and 25 schools have been destroyed or seriously affected.
As part of our work, UNDP supports the Government of Rwanda to accelerate implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, and will continue to do so in support of its successor arrangements. Some of the key issues which require continued or increased attention include:
(1) Bringing disaster risk reduction to the center of the EDPRS 2:
There is compelling evidence that sustainable development and disaster risk reduction go hand in hand. The impact of disasters can be anticipated, managed and mitigated if appropriate policies and actions are in place.
Recognizing that, UNDP advocates for the integration of disaster risk reduction concepts into sustainable development discussions and frameworks. Not only at the global but also at the national and local levels such as the EDPRS 2 and District Development Plans.
Forging resilient societies requires long-term approaches to building institutions and networks and expanding knowledge and resources. There are many promising examples in the world from which we can learn and adapt to the Rwandan context.
(2) Building increased resilience for the future into recovery processes:
When planned well, recovery efforts can help restore and support development efforts, transforming communities while also repairing and addressing immediate recovery needs. When managed poorly, however, recovery efforts can increase inequality and vulnerability to future disasters. For this reason, at UNDP, we are committed to work with the Government of Rwanda to support areas struck by disasters to build back.
(3) Reforming governance arrangements for effective disaster risk reduction at national and local levels:
The quality of governance is an important determining factor in the success or failure of disaster risk reduction strategies, policies, and responses. Rwanda has made important progress on mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into their national policy frameworks and has improved institutions and laws, creating a conducive environment for building resilience.
Much of this effort has been focused on the important work of strengthening disaster response and preparedness functions. Less attention to date has been given to reducing disaster exposure and vulnerabilities through preventive measures such as better land use planning, building codes, and environmental and water management.
The EDPRS 2 should go further in emphasizing the importance of effective governance in managing and ultimately reducing risk. More attention will need to be given to local level and urban risk management; the allocation of sufficient capacity and resources; and a greater convergence of the development, environment, and climate change agendas around policy, institutional arrangements, and implementation.
(4) Focusing on cross-cutting issues;
The Hyogo Framework highlights a number of cross-cutting areas to be addressed in achieving sustainable risk reduction. They include participation, capacity building, and gender considerations. Rwanda’s risk reduction strategies need to take the full range of them into account
(5) Act now, save later
At the global level, to reduce the often devastating economic impact that floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters have on developing nations, the UN started the Act
Now, Save Later Campaign (www.actnowsavelater.org). The campaign sheds light the exorbitant cost of recovery assistance following natural disasters, and urges wealthy and developing nations to spend now in order to save later. It is estimated that every single dollar of aid spent on preventing and mitigating disasters saves an average of seven dollars in humanitarian disaster response.
The campaign’s animated video draws attention to the fact that every single dollar of aid spent on preventing and mitigating disasters saves an average of seven dollars in humanitarian disaster response.
Currently, the international community spends only 1% of aid on disaster preparedness, despite it being an important investment against natural hazards. Not only does it provide the humanitarian community with valuable time when disasters strike, but it gives vulnerable people a buffer against repeated crises, which can push them further into poverty