• Disaster Risk Reduction: Global Lessons for Rwanda / Auke Lootsma (Blog)

    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.

    Development challenge

    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


About The author
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Auke Lootsma is the UNDP Rwanda Country Director.