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
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
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,
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
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
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?