A woman collects water in Lafole, Somalia, supplied by Oxfam & SAACID. (Photo: Oxfam Novib)
By Denis McClean
GENEVA, 15 February 2012
- A new briefing paper from Oxfam identifies "the limited investment in building resilience and disaster risk reduction (DRR), despite rhetoric to the contrary" as one of main failures of humanitarian aid in recent times.
A key theme of Crises in a New World Order: Challenging the humanitarian project
is capacity building of states and civil society: "The combination of an effective state and active civil society is too often absent in countries vulnerable to crises. Meeting the challenge to build both is essential for effective emergency response and for increasing communities' resilience to disasters, violence, and other shocks."
The briefing paper states that future climate change is likely to lead to more frequent extreme weather events and many of the most vulnerable will be people living "in mega-slums, where 1.4 billion are projected to live by 2020."
Oxfam makes a strong case for supporting local civil society in a variety of contexts, both conflict and non-conflict. It cites Central America as a positive example where 110 civil society organizations support communities across Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador through Concertación Regional de Gestión de Riesgos
Central American Presidents approved an Integrated Disaster Risk Management Policy thanks to the work of the regional Centro de Coordinación para la Prevención de Desastres Naturales en América Central
In Asia, the Indonesian government invited NGOs to help draft the National Disaster Management Law. The Bangladesh Disaster Management Programme is institutionalizing DRR in its Food and Disaster Management Ministry and 13 other agencies while also implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action, the international blueprint for DRR.
ASEAN is also praised for leading the way with its Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response which "binds members to co-operate to reduce disaster losses and make joint emergency responses" and resulted in effective response to the recent floods in Thailand.
The paper finds that when it comes to building capacity, progress is not universal: encouraged by UNISDR "many governments have set up National Platforms for DRR to co-ordinate implementation of the Hyogo Framework. At present, however, some platforms work better than others; they are dependent on each government's will, in particular their willingness to include a wide spectrum of civil society. It takes energy, commitment, will, trust, and resources to provide effective humanitarian action."
Oxfam also finds that post-disaster UN-led cluster focus on each sector, such as health and shelter, "does not encourage progress on issues common to all, such as DRR."
While acknowledging that some donors do have a long-term commitment to DRR including DFID, ECHO and USAID, the report states: "In 2009, only 0.5% of total aid was devoted to DRR. In 2011, the East Africa crisis was testament to this lack of priority. When donors did fund preparedness, it tended to be after rather than before the crisis."
In an area of particular interest to UNISDR through its Making Cities Resilient Campaign
, the briefing paper reports that in many countries the capacity of local government is particularly neglected.
A key conclusion is that "DRR should be brought into humanitarian, development and rehabilitation programme design from the start, and enacted in legislation in all countries."