Chapter 7 Reforming risk governance
As highlighted by the HFA Progress Review (Chapter 4), the institutional arrangements, legislation and policy for disaster risk management (DRM) focus on disaster management, preparedness and response. Even where multi-sector institutional systems have been created for DRM, responsibility and policy are still usually anchored in disaster management organizations, which often lack the political authority or technical capacities to influence important decisions related to national and sector planning and investment. Responsibility for DRM may also be mandated to local governments that often lack the necessary resources and capacities. Such conditions create barriers to civil society participation and result in weak accountability.
7.1 Problems with risk governance
The development instruments and mechanisms for successful DRM need to be facilitated by appropriate risk governance arrangements. This requires political commitment and policy coherence in central government, competent and accountable local governments, and an openness to work in partnership with civil society, in particular with lowincome households and communities. As highlighted by the HFA Progress Review, existing arrangements are generally not appropriate.
Over the past two decades, many countries have invested in developing national policy, and strengthening and reforming institutional and legislative systems for DRM. Civil protection and civil defence agencies, often in the defence sector, have progressively been replaced by a new generation of multi-sector and multilayered DRM systems, where responsibility is placed in each sector and decentralized to local governments. However, it has been repeatedly highlighted (Hewitt, 1983
; Stallings, 1995
; Lavell and Franco, 1996
; Wisner et al., 2004
) that both national policy and the institutional and supporting legislative systems remain fundamentally skewed to supporting disaster management, in particular preparedness and response, rather than risk reduction. At the national level, responsibility is still usually anchored in disaster management organizations, which often lack the political authority or technical capacities to influence important decisions related to national and local sector planning and investment. Whereas such systems often mandate responsibility for DRM to local governments, they may lack the necessary resources and capacities. Such conditions create major barriers to civil society participation and result in weak accountability.
In some countries, developments outside the realm of DRM have also influenced these arrangements. In the United States of America, for example, the events of 11 September 2001 shifted attention away from a broader focus on DRM, which had evolved through the 1990s, to an emphasis on crisis management and emergency preparedness and response under a newly created Department of Homeland Security (Gerber, 2007
7.2 Locating responsibility for DRM at the centre of power
Coherent national policy for disaster risk reduction and DRM needs to be driven from the centre. This means that responsibility for national oversight and coordination needs to be located in a central ministry, and that financial planning for DRM is included in the national accounting system.
The role of a national disaster risk reduction policy cannot be overestimated. It must be clear and comprehensive, yet detailed enough to define the roles and responsibilities of different actors in development sectors as well as local governments. The HFA Progress Review highlights that about one third of the 82 countries and territories who reported have a national disaster risk reduction policy in place, and another third are currently developing one or are in the process of having it reviewed.
Where responsibility for DRM is located within central government has an enormous positive influence on the effectiveness of policy and accompanying legislation and investment. In principal, ultimate responsibility should be vested at the highest possible political level (UNISDR, 2009
). However, where DRM has been located in the Office of the President or Prime Minister, it has often been rendered politically weak, poorly resourced and, moreover, far removed from central development and planning processes (UNESCAP and UNISDR, 2010
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). Also, when responsibility lies within an environment ministry or an emergency management organization, as is more common, impact and influence on national or local sector development planning and investment decisions may be minimal (Box 7.1). In South Africa, the National Disaster Management Center (NDMC) is part of the Department for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs which is perceived as having a low profile (Williams, 2011
), and limited links between the NDMC and local governments mean that this positioning has not been very successful. Where responsibilities have been vested in interior or defence ministries, the predominance of disaster management functions, such as preparedness and response, has generally been reinforced.
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Where multi-sector, decentralized systems have been created, often with names that allude to risk reduction and management, this has tended to introduce disaster management into sectors and local governments, rather than focusing attention on using development planning and investment as opportunities for DRM (UNISDR, 2007
). ‘DRM focal points’ within ministries and technical agencies can increase awareness of such issues within sectors but, unless they have the resources and the authority to call the sector to account for risk reduction, their impact is limited and depends on individual performance and relationships (Williams, 2011
). A good example of successful leadership and mainstreaming is in Mozambique, where the Coordinating Council of Disaster Management is chaired by the Prime Minister and attended at the ministerial level (Williams, 2011
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Box 7.1 National responsibility for DRM in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, the Ministries of Food and of Disaster Management and Relief were merged in 2003 to create a new Ministry of Food and Disaster Management (MoFDM). This has significantly improved coordination of effective disaster management, but still with a focus on disaster relief, as the MoFDM is not represented on key central government planning boards, such as the National Economic Council and the Economic Affairs Committee. It therefore does not have the necessary political influence required to drive disaster risk reduction across government departments.
Mauritius, the Republic of Moldova, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam all reported on the challenge of implementing well-developed national policy due to the lack of corresponding legislation to enable adequate enforcement and coordination. However, specific DRM legislation is rarely the only legislation related to reducing risks. Even countries that have adopted comprehensive legislation regulate risks through myriad sector laws and orders with respect to land use, building and water management. This may lead to multiple and competing institutional responsibilities to address underlying risk drivers and contradictory policy objectives.
The incipient incorporation of DRM into national planning and public investment systems highlights an opportunity to explicitly locate political authority and policy responsibility for DRM, and for climate change adaptation, in a central planning body such as national planning departments or ministries for economy and finance. Given their role in deciding the allocation of the national budget, these ministries could have greater political leverage over planning and investment in each sector if they had policy responsibility for DRM. There may be political resistance to moving such responsibility to a central planning or finance ministry, particularly where the existing structure is in the defence sector. However, as the focus of DRM shifts from managing disasters to reducing risks, the political incentives for strengthening the role of finance and planning ministries are likely to become more explicit.
GAR 2011 Contributing PapersAcharya, B. 2010. Social accountability in DRM – drawing lessons from social audit of MGNREGS. Case study prepared for Gupta, 2011, the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response (ADRRN)–SEEDS. [View]
Archer, D. and Boonyabancha, S. 2010. Seeing a disaster as an opportunity, harnessing the energy of disaster survivors for change. Case study prepared for the IIED Background Paper and GAR11. [View]
Daikoku, L. 2010. Citizens for clean air, New York. Case study prepared for the ADRRN. [View]
Gupta, M. 2011. Filling the governance ‘gap’ in disaster risk reduction. Paper prepared by the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN). [View]
Herranz, P. Human rights and accountability. Case study prepared for the ADRRN. [View]
Ievers, J. and Bhatia, S. 2011. Recovery as a catalyst for reducing risk. IRP. [View]
IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies). 2011. Desk review on trends in the promotion of community-based disaster risk reduction through legislation. [View]
Karayalcin, C. and Thompson, P. 2010. Decision-making constraints on the implementation of viable disaster risk reduction projects. Some perspectives from economics. [View]
Llosa, S. and Zodrow, I. 2011. Disaster risk reduction legislation as a basis for effective adaptation. [View]
Olson, R. Sarmiento Prieto and J. Hoberman, G. 2011. Disaster risk reduction, public accountability, and the role of the media: Concepts, cases and conclusions. . [View]
Satterthwaite, D. 2011. What role for low-income communities in urban areas in disaster risk reduction? . [View]
Scott, Z. and Tarazona, M. 2011. Decentralization and disaster risk reduction. Study on disaster risk reduction, decentralization and political economy analysis for UNDP contribution to the GAR11. [View]
Williams, G. 2011. The political economy of disaster risk reduction. Study on Disaster Risk Reduction, Decentralization and Political Economy Analysis for UNDP contribution to the GAR11. [View]