By Linda Low in Geneva
When most people talk about reducing the risk of disasters in a community, discussions quickly turn to earthquake proof buildings and pre-positioned flood banks. But what about the law? Can legislation help make communities more resilient in times of disaster?
Over the past two years, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been consulting with its members and partners to determine how legislation can promote risk reduction in communities. Preliminary findings were presented at this week’s Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, a major UN gathering of disaster risk reduction leaders in Geneva.
Priscilla Duque, Philippines Assistant Civil Defence Executive Officer, said at a special meeting convened by the IFRC, that legislation was a vital component in helping communities prepare for potential disasters. “National legislation for disaster risk reduction (DRR) in my country has been 21 years in the making. After much stakeholder consultation, including input from the Philippine National Red Cross, we signed an act into law last year to strengthen our DRR management system.”
“The Philippines is a country of 1,107 islands. During high tide, we have only 1,100 islands as seven of them disappear. We are highly prone to disaster so legislation is critical,” continued Ms. Duque. “At the community level, the legislation has provided clarity on roles, defined funding formulas and empowered communities to take steps towards increased resilience.”
Gustavo Lara, Director General of the Dominican Republic Red Cross, also shared insights at the meeting. “We have laws, plans and projects in place. But we also need to invest properly,” he said. “If we look at how disaster resources are distributed in most societies now, the majority goes to national bodies, then the city and then local communities. In our experience at the Red Cross, the opposite has a much greater impact on reducing disaster risks. Investing at the community level first is a much better solution. It creates capacity at the local level, and this is key to local resilience.”
Effective disaster management laws can play a critical role in reducing the vulnerability of communities to natural hazards and in ensuring the speed and effectiveness of disaster relief and recovery efforts. Read more here about the IFRC’s International Disaster Response Laws, Rules and Principles Programme.