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close this bookDisasters and Development (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1994, 55 p.)
close this folderPART 4 - Forging the links between disasters and development
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe UN and the NGO role
View the documentBuilding links between disasters and development - the community’s role
View the documentCASE STUDY
View the documentSUMMARY


Study of recovery after disaster: local participation in redevelopment planning

The post-disaster recovery period offers an opportunity for local organizational capacity building. Inserting development objectives into recovery activities has been shown to reduce costs and increase the effectiveness of recovery aid policies. External aid can be used to support organizations involved in self-directed sustainable development initiatives allowing local people to define the goals and control resources.

Studies of long term recovery efforts have shown that communities often respond in different ways to the same input, depending on the strength of local organizations and social units. For example, richer communities are often able to exert influence and be rebuilt faster than poorer communities. When people and organizations are linked in an equal manner, development policies are more likely to tit the need of the citizens. When local institutions cannot act collectively to solve local problems, local development is often not targeted properly to the needs of the citizens. When problems occur in the delivery of aid, it is often a result of weak local institutions.

Communities can take steps before and after a disaster to increase the likelihood of sustainable development and mitigation by evaluating the existing and potential roles of local government agencies and community-based NGOs for future recovery efforts, as depicted in the following example.

Montserrat, West Indies: Before Hurricane Hugo struck in 1989, Streatham village located on the small island state of Montserrat in the eastern Caribbean was historically vulnerable to disaster and always required outside assistance to recover. The village lacked a highly coordinated network of social and governmental organizations which might enable it to take control of its own affairs. Among its strengths, however, were ties to larger networks of institutions outside of the village where problems could be expressed, and also ties to external aid through long term projects funded by Canada. Local organizations in Streatham village had the potential to enhance the work of external organizations through their knowledge of local circumstances.

After Hugo caused extensive damage, two outside organizations, a Canadian NGO and a regional NGO, collaborated with a local community action group to assist in the recovery. The Canadian NGO sought to build improved housing by providing funds to the intermediary NGO to carry out the construction activities in Streatham. The intermediary group worked with the community action group to initiate the project. The Canadian NGO also supplied the program with building materials and transport.

The new program produced significant accomplishments. The community action group staff conducted a series of training workshops on rebuilding and structural strengthening techniques. Twenty homes were rebuilt and many others repaired. Local groups traveled to Canada to conduct seminars for Canadian supporters to demonstrate how foreign aid was used. The long term accomplishments included:

· improvement in local visibility and sense of importance

· substantial increase in voluntary participation of local citizens in recovery activities

· strengthening of community action groups capacity to undertake other development projects

· increase in Canadian donors understanding of local needs and trust in local capacities resulting in granting of additional aid

· establishment and maintenance of a local agricultural and marketing cooperative.

The excellent results of the recovery program can be partially attributed to the goals of the Canadian NGO at the onset: to empower the local and regional groups and not do the work itself. This resulted in the strengthening of local institutional capacities. In turn, the foreign donors developed a better understanding of the institutional capacity building needs for effective recovery and development and were able to address these needs through their development programs.

From: Berke, Philip R., Jack Kartez and Dennis Wegner, “Recovery after Disaster: Achieving Sustainable Development, Mitigation and Equity”, in Disasters, Vol. 17 No. 2, pg. 93-107.