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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

The UN and the NGO role

UNDP, DHA, other UN agencies and NGOs have a major role to play within a country to promote a wider awareness of the links between disasters and development and the options for reshaping national strategies for disaster preparedness, mitigation, and recovery. Generally, this role can be considered to have three parts. First, the organizations should design initiatives to increase the overall knowledge and level of commitment of national counterparts to preparedness, mitigation and development related recovery programming. Second, UN agency officials and NGOs can provide access to nontraditional sources of capital and technical assistance. Third, both UN agency officials and NGOs must review their country programs and other national projects to assess mitigation opportunities and ensure that such development schemes do not increase vulnerability.

Governments should develop an overall country-wide disaster plan with supporting policies.

Increasing knowledge and awareness

Building vulnerability reduction and mitigation into development programs requires action to increase awareness among politicians, administrators, community leaders, and above all among the ordinary people affected by disasters. Similarly, reducing the disaster potential generated by poorly conceived development programs may need additional awareness raising among national development planners. One important goal is to encourage the widest possible perspective on a national mitigation strategy. Governments should be encouraged to develop an overall country-wide disaster plan with supporting policies. The constituency for this needs to extend beyond government. Collaborating constituencies for mitigation must be built among NGOs, the banking, finance and insurance sectors, private industry, and supporting bodies ranging from economic policy groups to safety councils. Each constituency will need a unique strategy.

One key to this process is a detailed focus on risk factors and how they vary for different types and intensities of hazard conditions, different types of economic activities, and different populations. Carefully tailored programs can assist politicians and administrators to understand the nature and extent of the various risks faced by communities, to appreciate how people within those communities view these risks, and to assess the economic effects of natural disasters on industry, commerce, and agriculture. An additional early role is to encourage a detailed inventory of critical faculties and reconstruction resources, to ensure that planning is based on the best possible information.

A second requirement is to demonstrate ways to reduce these risks through better decision-making and planning. The aim is to encourage disaster mitigation planning at different levels of public administration, based on risk assessment and analysis of vulnerability. This will only be possible if there is clear awareness among national and regional planners of the benefits of including disaster mitigation measures in national development plans, land-use planning proposals, and in project appraisal in hazard-prone areas.

Training will be a core part of the strategy for encouraging widespread involvement and commitment, with special emphasis on support for training institutions for national planners. There will be real long-term benefits from integrating mitigation into the general training curriculum.

Filipino UN Volunteer helps build a new road in Bangladesh.

UNDP World Development November, 1989

Promoting the use of non-traditional resources

UN agency officials and NGOs can play a vital role in helping governments utilize the expertise from scientific institutions and the private sector in the government planning process. They can also encourage exchanges of staff and information with other countries where similar problems have been encountered.

Access to university-level programs will be important. The research base for disaster-related information and training will need to be strengthened. Areas to focus on include developing tools for analyzing and predicting damage to capital items, death and injury to people, and disruption of productive activity; and developing models for forecasting the economic outcome of these effects for a particular economic system.

NGOs and donors must increase their commitment to funding preparedness, mitigation and development related recovery programs.

UN agency officials and NGOs can also provide legitimacy and access to donors to provide financing and seed capital for mitigation projects. NGOs and donors must increase their commitment to funding preparedness, mitigation and development related recovery programs. Many NGOs, in particular, have the flexibility within their funding mandates to shift resources to promote recovery related development interventions.

Advocacy and pressure groups for disaster mitigation may already be present or emerge gradually. Their role can be enhanced, especially by NGOs, by improving access to information, and supporting training in risk assessment, vulnerability analysis and organizational effectiveness.

One area to emphasize will be the role and contribution of line-ministries.

Setting a good example

It is critically important that UN agencies and NGOs put these concepts into practice themselves as a model to government counterparts. This is best done by aggressively seeking out mitigation opportunities, funding their implementation and critically reviewing all development schemes to ensure that they do not increase vulnerability. To achieve this, disaster focal points, whose job it is to monitor and promote mitigation-related strategies, should be identified and supported. Naturally, the focus of action will depend largely on the political structures within the country, but one area to emphasize will be the role and contribution of line-ministries. It is in these sectors of government that the planning skills and resources for integrating development and mitigation are most likely to be found.

The perspective of such a program will need to be long-term, and will have to take account of the tendency of governments to ignore disaster related projects in the absence of any major disasters. The aim should be to build and sustain a spectrum of multi-sector support programs for mitigation, promoted by line-ministries, and to reinforce these with training, continued awareness-building, and pressures from other constituencies. In some countries, NGOs enjoy a favored position with political and government leaders and are uniquely positioned to bring legitimacy to mitigation projects.

A primary argument for change will be cost. Attention of politicians and planners must be focussed on a comparison of the costs to the government of achieving higher levels of mitigation and the costs if they do not. At the same time, there will be continuing opportunities to promote and support a range of individual projects, including demonstration projects. Demonstration projects identify measures that can be done at low cost, often involving adjustments to existing projects. An additional early strategy is to build up information on the current situation, using risk and vulnerability studies and audits of institutions with disaster functions.

Q. What are some ways that UN agency officials and NGOs in your country or region can help leaders promote development in the context of disaster preparedness, mitigation and recovery?