On the occasion of the 126th summit of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) held in Kampala, Uganda, from 31 March to 5 April, parliamentarians from some 20 countries reiterated the importance of legal preparedness for disasters during a panel session on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Sustainable Development, organised by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and the IPU. In light of the increasing number and intensity of disasters around the world, the panel emphasized the need for countries to focus on preparedness well before disasters occur, and that parliamentarians have a key role in bringing this to the attention of policy-makers and governments.
The panel was chaired by the Honorary Alex Byarugaba, Chairman of the Disaster Risk Reduction Forum of the Parliament of Uganda, and featured parliamentarians, representatives from the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), UN ISDR and the IFRC. Speaking on behalf of the IFRC, Africa Disaster Law Coordinator Sanne Boswijk introduced the Model Act for the Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance, which was developed last year by IFRC, IPU and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to assist legislators to integrate legal preparedness for the common regulatory challenges in international disaster cooperation into their national law.
During the discussion, parliamentarians recognised the importance of having a legal framework that allows for international humanitarian actors to operate in countries affected by disasters. In the words of Japanese parliamentarian and former Minister for Disaster Management, Hon. Yoshitaka Murata: “Disasters do not respect international borders … our laws should take this into account”. In this respect, the Model Act was acknowledged as an important reference.
Participants took the opportunity to share examples of legal preparedness in their countries, such as the Philippines Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, and emphasized that legislation on disaster risk reduction should be a priority on parliamentary agendas.