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close this bookRehabilitation and Reconstruction - 1st Edition (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 1993, 47 p.)
close this folderPart 3 - Assumptions, dilemmas and guiding principles
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentDangerous Assumptions
View the documentDilemmas and alternatives
View the documentGuiding principles
View the documentSummary

Guiding principles

As can be seen from the preceding sections, planning and management of rehabilitation and reconstruction are highly complex processes that cover a sequence of actions from data collection to assessment of needs, planning, implementation and evaluation. Recovery actions embrace numerous sectors of society and involve actions by individuals, communities, governments and international bodies. Although similarities exist between one recovery situation and another, each case has unique characteristics, diverse patterns of damage, different needs, varied constraints and levels of resources Therefore, given such variables, only very general principles can be established. The following list covers a range of critical issues. Principles one to seven are processes to recognize while numbers eight to twelve relate to essential tools required to manage the recovery.

1 The planning of recovery needs to be broad in scope and fully integrated.

Planning has to be wide ranging because the impact of disaster can be felt on all sectors requiring very detailed co-ordination. In addition, planning has to be integrated because each situation is complex, involving various actors risking a fragmented response.

2 A balance has to be achieved between the conflicting yet vital processes of reform and conservatism.

In any major reconstruction process two powerful forces will exist; reformers, who recognize the opportunity to change administrative patterns, introduce new laws, modify urban forms and conservationists, who resist all changes and want to return to what existed before the disaster. Wise officials will seek to balance these opposing forces. Both change and continuity are essential.

3 Reconstruction should not be delayed to await political, administrative or economic reform.

Following major disasters there is a tendency for politicians to introduce reforms at various levels and in varied sectors. However, it is critically important that reconstruction not be delayed until laws are enacted since this will lose vital momentum for action. New legislation is normally essential, and reforms may be necessary, but they can be implemented in parallel with reconstruction to avoid costly delays.

4 Economic recovery should be regarded as a prerequisite for rapid physical recovery.

Officials are faced with many options in recovery management. They could invest in rebuilding the economy or rebuilding structures. If they devote initial resources for economic regeneration this can stimulate physical recovery as well as addressing some of the root causes of vulnerability for the poor and the marginalized.

5 Reconstruction offers unique opportunities to introduce a range of measures to reduce future risks to persons and property.

Reconstruction offers a unique opportunity for public officials wanting to improve the protection of people and property. This is due to the heightened public and political awareness following a major disaster, which stimulates a demand for safety.

6 The relocation of entire communities is usually not effective and is rarely feasible.

Despite the risks of populations inhabiting dangerous sites, which can result in extensive casualties and property losses, relocation to safe sites is not normally feasible in social, cultural, developmental or economic terms.

7 Recovery actions can be regarded as a therapeutic process to assist individuals and their communities to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

If the victims of disaster become active participants in the recovery process as opposed to being mere spectators, they can play a valuable role in their emotional recovery. Psychological well being of the affected population and those who are engaged in helping them should be seen as an integral part of recovery process.

8 The basis of effective recovery is the availability and maintenance of an adequate flow of cash and credit throughout the entire process of recovery.

The flow of finance through cash grants and loans is essential throughout the entire recovery process. A particular problem is that the initial political support after a disaster inevitably unlocks resources which decline over time when extensive finances are needed for reconstruction. Public, private and international funds need to be focused to support local level capacities for long lasting and sustainable impact.

9 Successful reconstruction is closely linked to the resolution of land ownership problems.

Within urban areas suffering earthquake or floods there is often a serious pressure on available land, resulting in the occupation of unsafe sites. Governments will need to grasp the difficult issue of making safe land available with tenure for the occupants and enforcing land use planning controls within reconstruction planning. Although land can sometimes be more readily available in rural areas, it may be controlled by the few. Reforms to improve ownership and tenure of agricultural land can be relatively more feasible after a disaster.

10 To aid recovery it is preferable to maximize the use of local resources.

Before planning for external support, it is vital for officials to check whether locally available expertise, labor and products are available in order to regenerate the local economy. It is preferable to use these resources rather than import skills and materials. Strengthening the capacities of affected people will increase self reliance, long-term sustainability of mitigation efforts as well as protect their dignity.

11 Physical recovery is dependent on the development of effective local institutions as well as training and leadership at all levels and in all sectors.

Frequently, political leaders want to see rapid ‘action on the ground’ in response to public pressure for recovery. However, these actions depend on the development and maintenance of committed leadership, staff training and resilient institutions in each affected locality.

12 Political commitment is vital to ensure effective recovery.

Political support is needed from the very highest level of government and right through the political system to ensure that integrated planning, financing and implementation of recovery and reconstruction continue from inception to completion without interruption.

It is not a platitude to state that recovery after disaster poses a challenge. It can easily become a series of lost opportunities: minimal advances in safety, protracted years, even decades of unfinished projects and an economy that has failed to reach pre-disaster levels of productivity. But, with careful planning, conscientious management and the full commitment of a society it can be regarded as a unique opportunity to bring many benefits which can lead to an improved natural and built environment.


Rebuilding after Earthquakes, Lessons from Planners; California, William Spangle and Associates Inc., 1992.