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close this bookDisaster Mitigation - 2nd Edition (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 1994, 64 p.)
close this folderPart 4 - Implementing organizations
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentBuilding up skills and institutions
View the documentThe regional context: a problem shared
View the documentInternational exchange of expertise
View the documentSupporting decision-making: external specialists
View the documentKnowledge dissemination
View the documentInternational decade for natural disaster reduction
View the documentDisaster mitigation in UNDP country programming
View the documentInitial phases of the UNDP country programming exercise
View the documentSUMMARY

Building up skills and institutions

Disasters are an international problem. The scale of a major disaster often exceeds the capabilities and resources of a national government. The international community is usually quick and generous in its response. Protection from disasters is similarly an international concern. Disasters are, with a few notable exceptions, infrequent and a country is unlikely to have regular experience or to have built up expertise in dealing with all of the wide range of hazards it is likely to experience. That expertise is available on an international level. Countries that have recently experienced a volcanic eruption may be best placed to assist another country anticipating volcanic activity, for example. International organizations are important vehicles for facilitating international exchanges of expertise and developing an international approach to disaster mitigation. Some of the important actors are DHA, UNDP, NGOs and regional organizations.

Helping to build national institutions and formal structures that will perpetuate the mitigation program is an important element of the UN's initiative in providing disaster management assistance.

One of the most important long-term, sustainable aspects of disaster mitigation is the development of skills and technical capacitation in-country. Professional development and a pool of expertise in disaster mitigation techniques will allow longer term development of the issue. Helping to build national institutions and formal structures that will perpetuate the mitigation program is an important element of the UN's initiative in providing disaster management assistance. In a number of countries, the response to any individual disaster is to set up a special disaster committee to handle the emergency. At the end of the emergency or reconstruction, the committee or government department has the advantage of retaining these skills and experiences. This allows some emphasis to be switched from post-disaster assistance to pre-disaster preparedness.

Institutions which gather and analyze information are fundamental to the development of the skills required in any nation to reduce its risk against future disaster. Examples of institutions that would make up a national technical capability could include:

Meteorological observatory

Seismological observatory

Volcanology institution

Hydraulics and hydrology laboratories

Engineering council

Industrial safety inspectorate

Chamber of architects

Institution of urban and regional planners

University departments

Research institutions

Associations of economists, geographers, social scientists

National standards committee

The hazard observatories are the first requirements for a national capability in hazard defence. Often these institutions have few resources and are perceived as low priority or as esoteric research institutes. Equipment needs may be critical. Observatories need networks of sophisticated instrumentation maintained in the field, and are likely to need advanced computing facilities and software to analyze results. Training of technicians and staff members in developments in instrumentation and scientific methods may be important. The output of the various professional institutions is often highly technical and there is a need to persuade technical specialists to present their findings in simplified forms, comprehensible to laymen and to professionals in other disciplines - the interdisciplinary interfaces are important in developing an integrated mitigation program.