Better laws, safer communities?

Emerging themes on how legislation can support disaster risk reduction

Today, it is well accepted that our own actions – as individuals, communities and nations – make all the difference between a natural event and a natural disaster. We may not be able to stop the earth from shaking, or storms from striking, but our choices can determine the extent of death and damage they cause.

There is widespread agreement at an official level that legal frameworks are a critical tool for governments to shape those choices – both for themselves and for others. This was recognised by states when they approved the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters (HFA) in 2005. HFA’s first priority is to “ensure that disaster risk reduction is a national and a local priority with a strong institutional basis for implementation,” notably through “policy, legislative and institutional frameworks for disaster risk reduction.”

Privately, however, some disaster risk reduction (DRR) experts and activists have ex- pressed doubts and disappointment with the legislative route. They argue that the many new laws and policies that have been developed to address DRR seem not to have made the difference they promised – particularly at the community level.

Some also worry that the time, effort and political capital devoted to developing such legislation may detract from the achievement of more concrete steps.

Do better laws lead to safer communities? If so, do we have the laws we need in place? What are the differences between effective and ineffective legislative frameworks for DRR?

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are currently engaged in a global research project seeking answers to these and related questions. The study seeks to identify best practice in legislation for DRR and its implementation, as well as common gaps or issues that need additional focus. It will draw on desk studies of the laws of 26 countries and more comprehensive analyses of both laws and their implementation in 15 countries from all regions of the globe.

A synthesis report setting out the detailed findings is scheduled for release in October 2013. This pamphlet sets out some of the preliminary findings that the IFRC is noticing from the joint research. Comments and reactions to these preliminary findings are very welcome and will be taken into account in the completion of the partners’ analysis. 


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