Purpose of Topic 3
purpose of Topic 3 was to hold a general exchange of views on,
specific questions relating to, the ‘voluntary
partnerships’ mechanism proposed to complement the WCDR implementation
machinery (which was discussed in Topic 2). The focus of the discussion
was to be on the suggested operational criteria and modalities
The particular questions for discussion were:
the proposed operational criteria and modalities sufficient to
ensure effective partnership? What modalities should be put
in place to link the WSSD and WCDR partnerships and enhance their
- Should the ISDR secretariat foresee additional tasks as facilitator
of the partnership mechanism?
- Please provide information, contacts and lessons from experience
of relevant partnerships to enhance the success of the proposed
Contributions addressing all levels (national, regional and international)
were invited. As with the discussion of the first two topics, participants
were encouraged to support their remarks with examples of good
practice wherever possible. The discussion time was extended by
a few days to allow last-minute contributions, of which there were
Summary of discussion
There was no doubt among the contributors to the discussion that
voluntary partnerships were valuable, because they could improve
co-ordination of efforts and increase the number and range of actors
involved in disaster reduction. In general, the participants endorsed
the draft criteria and modalities for guiding the operations of
voluntary partnership mechanisms as both appropriate and workable;
but there was considerable discussion about the nature of partnerships
and about what was needed to make them work. Several valuable case
study examples were provided.
Many, if not
all, of the participants, had experience of involvement in voluntary
partnerships of one kind or another. Their contributions
were, therefore, strongly rooted in this experience, from which
many practical lessons had been learned. One of the most important
lessons was that successful partnerships could not be achieved
overnight: time and effort were required to secure willing commitment
from all the stakeholders involved. This meant taking a strategic
approach to partnership-building. Another lesson was that, without
the commitment of the main sectors in society – government,
business and civil society – to developing common policies
towards common goals, the application of resources alone would
not be sufficient to solve the disaster problem.
It was recognised that partnerships had to cut across disciplines
and sectors, link different levels of operation, and reconcile
top-down and bottom-up approaches. The various contributions referred
to all kinds of stakeholders as actual or potential partners in
voluntary partnerships for disaster reduction. These included:
governments at all levels, UN and other international agencies,
international and private donors, international, national and local
NGOs, grass-roots organisations, the business sector, the media
(whose importance was highlighted), the military, trades unions,
professional organisations and educational institutions.
expressed reservations about the efficiency and cost-effectiveness
of international organisations, but their
potential significance was not in doubt; nor was the need for international
co-ordination and support. UN agencies were believed to have a
key role to play in bringing about partnerships for disaster mitigation:
with UN or government agencies playing a leading role, successful
partnerships could be established more quickly. Thanks to the information
technology revolution, there was a good opportunity for an agency
such as ISDR within the UN system to play the role of ‘catalyst
and idea generator’ for disaster reduction approaches in
general, and, as part of this, to ensure that knowledge of good
practice in partnership-building was collected and shared (as proposed
in the WCDR background document). Other suggested roles for ISDR
or other UN agencies included: establishing websites (where reference
and methodological material could be collected and made available,
and through which ideas could be exchanged), creating mechanisms
for interaction with the media to share disaster reduction messages,
and ensuring that existing disaster reduction material was disseminated
right down to grass-roots level.
Operational experience indicated that, whilst it was relatively
straightforward to establish information-sharing mechanisms and
even to develop standard tools and methodologies, holding meaningful
policy dialogue with government was often much harder. This was
a crucial issue, since government engagement is very important,
especially at levels above the local. Capacity building within
the government system was needed to overcome the problem. Weak
linkages between legislators and implementing authorities presented
an additional problem at government level in some countries.
activities and mechanisms have costs and it was important to
face up to
this. Therefore support from donors – of all
kinds – was essential. NGO contributors reminded the dialogue
about the difficulty in obtaining funding for ongoing, long-term
work. Financial and other resources, such as services, had to be
made available right down to the local level, through whatever
mechanisms were available or adaptable to the purpose. Some civil
society contributors noted the risk that, in some places, NGOs
might be competing against each other in their field activities
with communities were generally agreed to be of fundamental importance.
vulnerable social groups often demonstrated
high levels of solidarity and mutual assistance during crises,
but were not given sufficient technical assistance in facing potential
emergencies. Although there was little discussion about how effective
partnerships could be created and maintained, several examples
of successful initiatives were presented. Everyone who wrote on
this matter strongly supported community participation in partnerships
with other stakeholder types. But this had to be genuine participation – i.e.
communities had to have their share of decision-making power. There
was a reminder that partnerships were not uniform, monolithic structures
but had to be shaped to benefit vulnerable communities, whose circumstances
would inevitably vary from one location to another. Partnerships
did not necessarily have to bring in new ideas and approaches,
but could be designed to support the application and dissemination
of time-tested traditional practices and coping mechanisms. There
were some pleas for a focus on building up and assisting community
Whilst it was widely agreed that corporate sector engagement was
necessary, it was also felt that the practical challenges in making
corporate partnerships lasting are often overlooked. There has
been relatively little analysis of this issue. More thinking is
needed on how to engage the private sector more in long-term partnerships
and on how to convince the sector that it should be more fully
engaged. One way might be to show the business benefits of disaster
Financial services such as insurance, credit, disaster reserve
funds and social protection funds were identified as important
mechanisms for managing risk, creating incentives to reduce risk,
and stimulating public-private partnerships. It was recognised
that the availability of formal financial services was low in developing
countries. However, there was great potential here for bringing
new, private sector, partners into the disaster reduction arena.
referred to the importance of public education and information
work – an issue that arose during earlier
discussions in this online dialogue – but there was no discussion
about how such action might stimulate partnerships. The emphasis
often appeared to be on information dissemination rather than genuine
communication (i.e. dialogue between communities and others). More
generally, improved information sharing and greater transparency
regarding information were perceived to be essential elements in
establishing sustainable partnerships. However, an important distinction
was also made between ‘partnerships’ (where each partner
makes a contribution in return for what they gain) and ‘networks’ (where
the emphasis is on sharing information).
of linking disaster reduction partnerships to other sectors and
mechanisms – e.g. Local Agenda 21 – was
also noted. Disaster reduction had to be located within sustainable
development, and this should be an intrinsic element of the follow-up
to WCDR, allowing the engagement of as many stakeholders as possible.
The importance of linking the post-WCDR disaster reduction programme
to the Millennium Development Goals and other international development
frameworks was once again highlighted.
Finally, one participant noted perceptively that disasters can
undermine relationships between stakeholders, notably where external
intervention or political factors are involved. Protecting voluntary
partnerships against this threat is clearly vital to ensuring their
sustainability. More positively, there were examples from Yemen
and India of external agencies that had come to a disaster-affected
area to give humanitarian assistance but then stayed to become
involved in long-term reconstruction and development.
(John Twigg, moderator, 20/7/04)
Participants’ examples of ‘good practice’ or
lessons for others to learn from are listed here. In some cases,
further details can be found in the relevant contribution (the
name of the contributor and date are given in brackets), and references
are given where these were supplied. Others, though, are short
or anecdotal references.
Note: This is a list
of the examples provided by participants. It has not been selected
or validated by the dialogue’s moderator
National and local levels:
- The Natural Disaster Mitigation Partnership (NDM-Partnership) in
Vietnam involving the Government, donor countries and international
agencies (http://www.undp.org.vn/ndm-partnership) (R Kuberan 6/7/04).
- The work of the Disaster Management Training Centre in Tanzania,
which runs courses for government, NGOs and the private sector
(Mlenge Mgendi 8/7/04).
- The local-level partnership-building work of the NGO Communidad
in El Salvador and other Latin American countries, involving local
authorities, citizens and professionals (Massimo de Franchi 11/7/04).
- The Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority in India, an organisation
involving a variety of stakeholders, which has undertaken several
activities to reduce disaster risk since 2001 (Meena Bilgi 11/7/04).
- Coastal Area Disaster Mitigation Efforts (CADME), a network of
20 voluntary organisations in coastal Andhra Pradesh, India, which
is facilitating village-level disaster preparedness activities
(Meda Gurudutt Prasad 13/7/04).
- The spontaneous involvement of JP Industries, a private construction
company, in clearing landslide debris in the Indian Himalaya, and
helping the local administration to evacuate people (Anshu Sharma
- The Crustal Stress Community Awareness Network in the Philippines,
which draws together local government, the community and NGOs in
gathering scientific data and observing environmental changes for
earthquake forecasting (www.undp.org.ph/frontliner/archive/3-2003/cscanlong.htm)
(Jean Chu 13/7/04).
CIIFEN (The International Centre for Research on El Niño),
in Guayaquil Ecuador, which applies scientific research and ocean
atmosphere modeling to early warnings and risk scenarios, disseminating
these to governments, decision makers, private and public sectors
and ordinary people (Rodney Martínez 15/7/04).
- Community emergency response teams in the USA, supported and trained
by emergency management authorities to act in support or independently
of official agencies during crises (Christopher Effgen 15/7/04).
- Development and testing of community-based flood management strategies
in Bangladesh (Ahsan Uddin Ahmed 19/7/04).
- Creation of self-governing community organisations for disaster
response and mitigation in Nepal (Man Thapa 19/7/04).
Involvement of San Carlos University in Guatemala in training courses
for other organisations and community-level risk management (Omar
Flores Beltetón 19/7/04).
- Regional networks in South Asia (Duryog Nivaran) and Latin America
(La Red), which have raised the profile of disaster mitigation,
provided channels for publishing research, and enabled local organisations
to work together on projects (Rachel Berger 15/7/04).
(John Twigg, moderator, 20/7/04)