Asia honours its local champions

(From left:) Mayor Alfredo Arquillano, Philippines, Josephine Castillo, Philippines, Mami Mizutori, Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Enkhtuvshin Ulziisaikhan, Deputy Prime Minister, Mongolia, Willem Rampangilei, Chief, Ministry of the National Disaster Management Authority, Indonesia, Otgonbayar Baljin, Mongolia, Deicy Wenas, Indonesia, and Whitely Tasaruru, Vanuatu.
By Patrick Fuller

ULAANBAATAR, 6 July, 2018 - Five local leaders from across Asia and the Pacific have been recognised for their inspirational work in driving disaster risk reduction in their communities.

They were presented with awards at an event last night organised by the Asian Local Leaders Forum for Disaster Resilience (ALL4DR) at the Asian Ministerial Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction.

ALL4DR was established at the 2016 AMCDRR in New Delhi as a collaboration between the United Nations Agency for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADDRN), a civil society network of grass roots organisations from across Asia Pacific.

It promotes dialogue around DRR issues between national and local leaders, who include provincial chiefs, mayors, leaders from small and medium enterprises, civil society organizations, and citizen volunteers - particularly youth and women leaders.

“By bringing up the voices of local people we felt we could make an impact at national level. We want something like the Forbes top 100 of local leaders, to showcase the outstanding work they do in developing disaster resilience within their communities,” said Manu Gupta, representing the ADDRN.

Whitely Tasaruru, Chairman of the Nguna-Pele Marine and Land Protected Area Network in Vanuatu, was one of the award recipients. A lifetime environmentalist Whitely took a lead role in leading community efforts to recover in the wake of Cyclone Pam which devastated the Pacific island nation in 2015.  He coordinated emergency relief efforts but also worked with local people to replant coral reefs and establish conservation areas.

“I didn’t realise it at the time, but what I was doing was ecosystem-based DRR,” explained Whitely. “People were suffering as they had lost their way of life and after the cyclone came drought. I helped to introduce new farming techniques for drought and salty land. Solutions lie with local people, local knowledge, local action and local and global partnership.”

Josephine Castillo from the Philippines, a founding leader of DAMPA - a federation of 235 community-based organisations across the Philippines -  also received an award. She was recognised for her role following Typhoon Haiyan when she set up a consortium in Leyte, one of the worst affected provinces, to address women’s recovery and construction concerns. Josephine highlighted the importance of community action networks.

‘At the grass roots we can work on our own to reach success. We both learn from and teach our fellow leaders in the network, but it is also important that we have influence at the global level so we can advocate on issues and push policy dialogue”.

Deicy Wenas from Indonesia received an award for her work with deaf people. She initiated ‘The Voice of Silence’ programme a collaboration with Indonesia’s disaster management agency (BNPB) which has resulted in the needs of deaf people being included in national and local early warning and DRR plans. Deicy’s message at the event was clear.

“The needs of deaf people are largely taken for granted in DRR planning. Inclusiveness is not about picking up those left behind, everyone can be included in society despite their disabilities.”

Mayor Alfredo Arquillano from San Francisco in the Philippines also received an award. He was recognised for his work in empowering local fishing communities in Camotes Island by developing a unique risk management system that combines indigenous practices with modern technology.

Otgonbayar Baljin, from the Mongolian Red Cross Darkhan branch, was recognised for her role in establishing community groups that help Mongolia’s herder communities to construct winter shelters to protect their livestock from the harsh winters which reduce losses from starvation and exposure.

Speaking at the event Willem Rampangilei, Chief of the Ministry of the National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB), Indonesia, said: “Leadership at local level holds the key to successful DRR. Local authorities should put the well-being of their communities above all else, they need to serve as agents of change and work across hierarchies. We need to draw on traditional knowledge and local wisdom and recognise people wo live amongst us who take small steps that have a big impact”.

Promoting local leadership is integral to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and a cornerstone of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which takes an all of society approach to building disaster resilience.

“Local action is fundamental towards achieving target (e). of the Sendai Framework which is to substantially increase the number of countries with local and national DRR plans by 2020,” said Ms. Mami Mizutori, Special Representative for the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.

“The commitment of these local leaders in the region in building disaster resilience at community-level is inspirational and deserves to be recognised and celebrated.”


The Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2018, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 3-6 July 2018 The Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2018, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 3-6 July 2018.
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