Institutions for DRR

DRR2Institutions determine the order of social life. In the context of disasters, institutions set rules of what and who will be at risk as per changing times.

As institutions are the collective will of communities and nations, they are in a position to save lives or let them perish, because the governance and administration are run through and run by institutions.

Quoting from UNOCHA (http://ocha.unog.ch/drptoolkit/PILFramework.html):

“A country’s legislative and governmental systems provide the basis for plans and organisation in all areas of disaster risk reduction [including preparedness and response]. An adequate institutional basis as well as good governance, therefore, is an important prerequisite for disaster risk management.” (UN/ISDR, 2007. Words Into Action: A Guide for Implementing the Hyogo Framework. Geneva, Switzerland, p.21).

Institutional frameworks and structures comprise all organizations or institutions with a recognized role to play in disaster risk management, the mechanism for coordination between them, their human resources, funding, equipment and supplies, leadership and effectiveness. Appropriate institutional frameworks are needed to carry out policies and legislative measures.

Institutional framework should not place all powers and responsibilities at the central level for disaster management. Currently, many governments and aid agencies focus more on emergency relief measures than disaster risk reduction. This can create a culture of dependency amongst vulnerable people, preventing them from escaping the poverty trap. Governments and local authorities must put more emphasis on strengthening people’s capacity to anticipate, cope with and recover from disasters, as an integral part of relief and development programmes.

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This can reduce the impact of disasters or even prevent them from happening. The most effective way to reduce the risk of disaster is to work with local people to identify and analyze their vulnerabilities and capacities, and to develop and implement an action plan that will be effective and sustainable in their context.

Governments and institutions must also put more emphasis on addressing the underlying causes of disasters, such as poverty, unplanned urbanization and environmental degradation.

Disaster risk reduction can’t be achieved in isolation either by the government NGOs or by the communities. Disaster risk reduction calls for collaborative action and commitment by all important stake holders-the government, non-government organizations (NGOs), communities, media and the academic community. As amply demonstrated by CUBA, disaster preparedness helps reduce risk only when it is adapted in to daily lives consciously and consistently.

We need to move from this current approach of looking at disaster preparedness and disaster prevention as another noble idea. Disaster management is not the whole and sole responsibility of the government or an NGO, or of a few institutions and bodies, it is a responsibility of everyone. The civil society has been reacting to disasters with curiosity, sympathy and ad-hoc activism. There has been a wide spread lack of public awareness on the need for preparedness and long term strategies required for disaster risk reduction. Lack of public awareness translates in to absence of serious political will.

Key Message: The rational thinking would suggest that ideal institutions are conceived and nurtured with a comprehensive development approach which recognizes that disaster risk reduction is integral to development. Disaster risk reduction is not only integral to development and governance; it also gets affected by presence and absence of good governance. Hence, it extremely important to investing in transparent, accountable and capable institutional capital for disaster mitigation.

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