PH must push for new global agreement on disaster risk reduction
This weekend, the world will converge in Sendai, Japan - an area once affected by a triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident in 2011. Why would so many choose to spend a week in this small Japanese city?
Governments, civil society, and private sector organizations are travelling from across the globe to come together and finalize a new agreement on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). This signals an unparalleled opportunity for the Philippines: to dramatically strengthen its own commitment to, and implementation of, inclusive DRR policies and ensure similar actions from governments around the world.
The current global agreement on DRR, the Hyogo Framework for Action, is set to expire in 2015 after 10 years of implementation. This agreement is widely credited as having provided necessary guidance to numerous governments and communities in establishing needed legislation and policies aimed at strengthening DRR. Perhaps the biggest learning from the past 10 years is that disaster risk reduction works: it saves lives, limits the impoverishment of people, and reduces a country’s economic losses from disaster. (READ: 8 of 10 world's most disaster-prone cities in PH)
However, the past decade has also shown that current efforts to reduce disaster risks are simply not keeping pace with our new reality: a reality of stronger storms, amplified hazards and smaller-scale, chronic disasters.
The new context
Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) offers a dramatic backdrop to the urgency of the negotiations in Sendai. The Philippines must be prepared to better handle future super typhoons, reducing their impact on lives and livelihoods. Likewise, typhoon Hagupit offers important lessons that must also be taken into account: while preparations, especially through early warnings and mass evacuations meant that many lives were saved, the devastation to farmers, fisherfolk and other poor workers has been severe. (READ: How a small Samar town survived deadly storm surges)
Importantly, Typhoon Hagupit’s impacts must be considered in the broader context of a season of devastating disasters. Rice farmers on Samar Island, for instance, have lost several harvests due to a number of smaller typhoons that hit largely the same area over the course of 6 months. With fields submerged, loans maxed out, and critical equipment destroyed, the compounding effects of multiple disasters is seriously limiting the ability of farmers to recover. Poverty and vulnerability are set to deepen.
The new post-2015 framework on DRR must address the limitations of the HFA while comprehensively responding to this ‘new normal’ of both large scale and smaller, everyday disasters. Oxfam is calling on the Philippine government to take a leading role in Sendai and to set an example of how disaster risk reduction efforts can be scaled up and made more inclusive. (READ: PH to share 'best practices' for new int'l disaster framework)
The following 4 priorities are essential to creating an effective framework that will keep communities safer and set the foundation for a more resilient future for the Philippines:
Setting ambitious and coherent global and national targets
Ambitious, quantitative global targets are critical to establishing a strong framework for disaster risk reduction. Furthermore, such targets for DRR must be aligned with the goals being set for sustainable development and climate change later in 2015, with the end result being a coherent set of global targets aimed at fostering greater resiliency. Likewise, the level of resourcing from developed countries must be commensurate with the level of ambition in the post-2015 framework: ‘significant’ achievement targets should be matched with ‘significant’ additional funding.
Taking their cue from the global targets, equally ambitious and integrated national targets must be established according to specific country contexts, together with the identification of clear indicators, milestones, and reporting mechanisms. We must be able to judge progress and hold each other to account. Disaster risk reduction is simply too important to be left to vague promises and goodwill.
Address underlying drivers of risk
Underlying drivers of risk, such as poverty and inequality, are amplifying the impacts of disasters. In the Philippines poor farmers are less able to take measures, such as crop diversification or micro-insurance, that would reduce their risks of disaster and enable them to recovery more quickly. Poor, informal settlers are often living in hazard-prone areas, faced with no other option than to hope and pray disaster doesn’t strike their community.
Likewise, poor communities often shoulder the burden of so-called ‘everyday’ disasters: the health issues caused by inadequate garbage disposal in a community, for instance, the insecurity of informal livelihoods or the constant flooding due to insufficient drainage in slum areas.
Without addressing poverty and inequality more comprehensively through a range of scaled up poverty reduction and social protection mechanisms, too many in the Philippines and other low to middle income countries will continue to feel the impacts of climate and conflict-related disasters. This must be reflected in a post-2015 DRR framework through a commitment to addressing the underlying risk factors which leave marginalized groups and poor countries at heightened vulnerability to disasters.
Ensure adequate resourcing and capacity at local levels
While the Philippines has made enormous strides over the past decade in establishing necessary laws and policies in support of disaster risk reduction, implementation has lagged. This is particularly evident at local levels, where in many municipalities, measures required by law, such as the establishment of fully staffed Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices, are not in place.
For poorer municipalities, the 5% of revenue they can use for DRRM purposes is limited by the smaller amount of revenue they can generate. Yet it is precisely these municipalities that are often most in need of strong DRRM measures. Eastern Samar province, for instance, has some of the highest rates of poverty in the country and sits directly in the path of many of the 20 typhoons that hit the Philippines each year. The lack of financial and technical resources coupled with limited accountability for implementation of such laws at local levels is dampening the impacts of good policies.
Any new DRR agreement established in Sendai must be clearly linked to strong local level implementation plans, capacity-building, resourcing, and monitoring mechanisms.
Effectiveness depends on involvement of those affected by disasters
Vulnerable and excluded groups, including women, people with disabilities and people living in poverty, are disproportionately impacted by disasters, precisely because of pre-existing inequalities. These vulnerable groups likewise have valuable insights into how disasters impact them as well as capacities in managing and reducing the risks they face – they are the DRR experts and champions in their communities and must be supported as such.
The post-2015 DRR framework must seek to further institutionalize the participation and leadership of disaster-affected communities in every stage of DRRM, from understanding risks and their differential impacts, to effective governance and accountability. An inclusive, community-based approach is absolutely critical to the effectiveness of all the priorities for action that will be agreed on at Sendai.
Ultimately, a post-2015 DRR framework requires strengthened commitments to action by our political representatives and the citizens that shape their priorities. The Philippines can and must take a leading role in driving forward a new global agreement on DRR. The safety and resiliency of Filipinos and people everywhere depend on it. - Rappler.com
Alison Kent is Humanitarian Policy Advisor with Oxfam in the Philippines. She will be attending the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan where she will present on sustainable recovery processes from Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Alison has worked on a range of humanitarian and human rights issues around the world.