"Put in place an organizational structure and identify the necessary processes to understand and act on reducing exposure, its impact and vulnerability to disasters."
To effectively contribute to a city’s development objectives and sustainability, a holistic approach in understanding the potential threats and managing disaster risk must be adopted. It is important to include the engagement of local government decision makers, various officials and departments, academia, business and citizens. Accompanied by the participation of these major groups and actors in planning, implementing and monitoring, an effective organizational structure is prerequisite for sound decision making and practical disaster risk reduction actions. It will foster collaboration and partnership among all the stake-holders for prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and rehabilitation of disaster risk.
Recognizing that the exact organizational structure will vary within and between countries, below are some suggestions:
Establish and strengthen the local level institutional and coordination capacity
- Establish a single point of coordination in the city, accepted by all stakeholders;
- Exercise strong leadership and commitment at the highest elected level within the city authority, such as the Mayor;
- Ensure that all departments understand the importance of disaster risk reduction for achieving objectives of respective department’s policies and programs and identify measures to reduce disaster risk within their roles and responsibilities; and that they have a framework within which to collaborate as required.
Build alliances and networks
- Engage and build alliances with all relevant stakeholder groups including government at all levels, such as national, state, city, parish or other subdivision, neighbouring cities or countries when applicable, civil society, community organizations and the private sector;
- Engage and learn from other city networks and initiatives, for example taking part in city to city learning programmes, promoting climate change and resilience initiatives, etc.)
Form a legislative framework and action mechanisms for resilience
- Establish necessary strategies, acts, laws, codes or integrate resilience qualities into existing policies aimed at preventing the creation of risk and reduction of existing risk;
Create policies to gather and manage data for sharing amongst all stakeholders and citizens, ensuring that all city government discussions routinely capture resilience implications, that the resilience implications of policies and standards in use are also assessed, and that action is taken upon these as needed;
Put in place reporting mechanisms that capture key information about resilience and promote transparency, accountability and improved data capture over time (e.g. consider use of UNISDR tools LGSAT and City Resilience Scorecard).
The Albay provincial government in the Philippines established a permanent disaster risk management office in 1995 to deal with the high risk of typhoons, floods, landslides and earthquakes. Disaster risk reduction was institutionalized, funded properly, and genuinely mainstreamed into local government planning and programmes, making it clear that disaster reduction was a formal and permanent priority within regular planning, governance and local government programmes. As a result, disaster prevention, preparedness and response have been well coordinated and, with the exception of 2006 and 2011, no casualties have have resulted in 15 of the last 17 years. For more information consult http://www.unisdr.org/we/inform/publications/13627 (page 48) and http://tinyurl.com/ck6btnb.
Councilor Nada Yamout, from Beirut, Lebanon’s city council stated at the Third Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (May, 2011): "We are a newly elected council; we are concerned about disaster risk reduction and so we registered as a Campaign City in October 2010. As a first step, the Council looked at allocating a budget to begin risk reduction activities: risk assessment, building a risk database, developing a DRR master plan, etc. We analyzed our needs and took stock of what was available to enable us to perform a gap analysis. We have several heritage sites within Beirut and protecting and preserving their character is important. We will move ahead using four pillars: technical support; financial support; involvement of the private sector and civil society; and national government support. If we do not allocate the right resources, we run the risk of not prioritizing projects. Building resilience is not the responsibility of the mayor alone. Action must be taken at four levels: national and provincial governments, city government politicians—whether elected or appointed; and the municipal administration."
Lebanon’s National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction is helping small and medium-sized local governments to sign on to the Campaign for Resilient Cities, undertaking baseline studies and stepping up disaster risk reduction actions (November, 2011).
North Vancouver, Canada formed a natural hazards task force comprised of eight volunteer district residents. Their mandate was to recommend to the Council the community's tolerable level of risk from natural hazards. The task force received presentations from subject matter experts and consulted the public for their input. The resulting recommendations make up the District's current policy for risk tolerance. Hazards and risks are carefully considered when granting building and development permits. Risk is compared with the risk tolerance criteria and further reduced to as low as is reasonable. The District works with residents, private corporations and neighbouring government land owners to collectively reduce risk from landslides and forest fires by taking action to improve drainage on slopes and create defensible spaces along the urban-wild land interface areas. “North Vancouver is setting a high standard for communities across Canada, and has become a model at engaging municipal and federal governments and the private sector in the promotion of a resilient approach to disaster risk reduction,” said Vic Toews, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, when the District of North Vancouver received the United Nations-Sasakawa Award for Disaster Risk Reduction, in 2011 (the award was shared with San Francisco, Cebu, Philippines and Santa Fe, Argentina). North Vancouver has incorporated risk reduction criteria into its official community plan, strategic planning, and development permit processes, and has instituted early warning systems for landslides and debris flows. The jury for the UN-Sasakawa Award says the district “demonstrates capacity for challenging, absorbing and producing technology, traditional knowledge, new knowledge and products, and innovative practices.” “This international recognition is evidence of the work by the professional staff who serve the citizens of North Vancouver District and the leaders and many volunteers of the North Shore Emergency Management Office, and all of the agencies dedicated to the public safety needs of their community. It is something our entire community can take pride in,” said North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton. “The work is ongoing as we continue to seek best practices and learn from the experience of communities around the world.” Read more at: www.nsemo.org/, www.getprepared.gc.ca/, http://tinyurl.com/d4m85ry.