Disaster laws can make a difference

From left: Philippines Congressman Rufus Rodriguez, UNDP’s Mr Sanny Jegillos, and IFRC’s Ms Tessa Kelly at today’s launch of the ‘Effective law and regulation for disaster risk reduction’ report. (Photo: UNISDR)
 
By Andy McElroy

BANGKOK, 25 June 2014 – When implemented, disaster risk reduction laws save lives and strengthen capacity at local and national level, according to a new study released today.

In Viet Nam the implementation of new legislation helped reduce the death toll during similar-scale floods in 2000 and 2011, from 600 to 60, said the report, which was launched at the Sixth Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.

The joint study, from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Societies (IFRC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that at least ten countries in Asia Pacific had adopted new disaster management laws since the Hyogo Framework for Action was adopted in 2005.

“Do disaster laws make a difference? Indeed they do,” said Congressman Rufus Rodriguez of the Philippines House of Representatives at the launch of the report titled ‘Effective law and regulation for disaster risk reduction’.

“It is very important that laws should meet and give emphasis to resilience, mitigation and risk reduction as well as disaster response and preparedness.”

Ms Tessa Kelly, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Coordinator of the Disaster Law Programme, heralded the “significant progress” citing improved early warning, dyke drainage, emergency shelter and stronger community awareness as a result of legislation in Viet Nam as a good example.

“There has been real progress in modernizing disaster management legislation. They have been crucial in allocating responsibility between government departments, making sure that early warning systems work, and increasing the awareness and preparing communities for oncoming disasters,” Ms Kelly said.

However, Ms Kelly said the in-depth study of 31 countries uncovered several challenges including the fact that many new laws have yet to make “the fundamental shift to ensure that prevention is a priority”.

“While expressing the best intentions many laws are too vague to be fully effective, especially when it comes to funding and community participation in decision making,” Ms Kelly said.

“A bit more needs to be done on implementation. You can have the best law in the world on paper but it means nothing if you don’t apply it.

“Ensuring that local authorities have the resources and capacity to carry out their responsibilities under the law is essential. Strong legal frameworks can create an enabling environment for building community resilience and we hope the examples set in countries like Viet Nam, Philippines and New Zealand will encourage other governments in Asia to follow suit.”

Regional Disaster Reduction Adviser of UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery in Asia Pacific, Mr Sanny Jegillos said: “Enactment of disaster risk management laws should be seen as a social contract that shares responsibility between citizens and governments.”

This week’s Conference, hosted by the Kingdom of Thailand, has attracted several ministers and top officials as well as more than 2,500 representatives from 63 countries. Representatives are shaping the region’s priorities for the post-2015 international framework for disaster risk reduction that will be agreed at next year’s World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, in Sendai, Japan.
Regional Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction take place from Africa to the Pacific Regional Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction take place from Africa to the Pacific.
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