Integrating disaster risk reduction into humanitarian action in Asia-Pacific

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Asia and Pacific

BANGKOK, 12 December 2019 - In many crisis settings, emergency response has been seen to be in a holding pattern, responding year on-year to the same needs without promoting lasting positive change in people’s lives. Yet humanitarian needs are expected to grow in the coming years as climate change is causing an increase in the intensity and frequency of climate-related hazards.

According to a recent report by Oxfam, climate-fuelled disasters were the number one driver of internal displacement over the last decade. Eighty percent of those displaced live in Asia, which has many cities and megacities in low-lying coastal areas. Just in the last year, 3.5 million people in Bangladesh and India were displaced by Cyclone Fani and 3.8 million were displaced by extreme weather in China.

In light of this, there is a clear need for increased collaboration between humanitarian actors and disaster risk reduction specialists to address underlying vulnerabilities and lay the foundation for sustainable development. Disaster risk reduction straddles both development and humanitarian action.

“If we don’t do better disaster risk management, we will have to invest a lot more in response, recovery and reconstruction,” said Ms Indu Ghimire, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Nepal.

This need was the rationale for a multi-phase initiative launched by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) to provide direction and identify entry points for enhanced integration of DRR into humanitarian programming in both recurrent and protracted crisis settings.

“UNDRR has brought this discussion at the right time; it is important that we reduce humanitarian crises with some integrated action so that people can cope, build their resilience and live peacefully with the required development prospect for themselves and the next generation to come,” said Mr Mohammad Qaseem Haidari, Deputy Minister of the Ministry for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan.

To scale up regional experiences to the global level, UNDRR’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific organized today a regional consultative workshop that brought together 46 representatives from government, the UN system, humanitarian agencies, development partners, and non-governmental organizations.

Mr Animesh Kumar, Deputy Chief of the UNDRR Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific outlined the rationale of the workshop: “By definition, humanitarian action and response should be of limited duration. However, recurrent and protracted disasters have resulted in a substantial increase in the average length of humanitarian crises, often making humanitarian action the ‘new normal’. Disaster risk reduction offers a suite of tools, approaches and actions that helps strengthen the humanitarian programme cycle while reducing the humanitarian burden.”

The workshop included a review of case studies from protracted crises settings as in Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and recurrent crises such as in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Participants identified specific opportunities and recommendations for better integrating DRR into the various elements of the humanitarian programme cycle: preparedness, assessment and analysis, planning, financing, and coordination.

“DRR in this disaster-prone region turns out to be a classic nexus issue: it’s a pressing problem that requires a combination of development, humanitarian, and sometimes peace-building action to solve,” said Mr Robert Smith, Chief of Humanitarian-Development Collaboration Section at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

These recommendations will be validated and refined through a global workshop to be organized by UNDRR in Geneva in February 2020. The final recommendations on integrating DRR into humanitarian and development programming will be shared with the UN system, humanitarian agencies and development partners to inform ongoing and future plans. Results will also be shared at the 2020 Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, being convened by UNDRR and hosted by the Government of Australia.  

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