Risk governance and disaster impacts in Asia

12 October 2017

Huong Ha, Singapore University of Social Sciences

According to the EM-DAT database 0.7 million people were killed, 1.7 billion were affected (nearly 30% of the world population) and total assets of US$1.4 trillion were damaged due to natural calamities from 2005 to 2014. What do these figures mean to individuals, organisations, countries and the world? Who will be responsible for such losses and damages? Can we avoid such events disasters?

What do we do to reduce the impact of such disasters? There is no simple answer to these questions. We must acknowledge the fact that it is impractical and impossible to avoid or totally prevent extreme weather events or earthquakes given the nature of their causes.

Governance is the key to the process of disaster risk management. In this governance process, three main dimensions of governance are essential, namely policy/procedures, institutions and implementation, monitoring and evaluation. At the international level, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 provides directions, objectives and priorities for countries to work on.

At the regional level, many economic and political integrations/groups demonstrate their political will to agree on the collective goals and collaborative action. For example, the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response effective since December 2009 and the South Asian Annual Disaster Management Exercise (SAADMEx) 2015 support members’ initiatives and complement national capacities to prepare for and combat disaster impact. Also, most of countries do have their own disaster risk management plan and strategies.

However, the key obstacles lie within institutions and the implementation of strategies and policies due to talent and manpower shortage, lack of stakeholder engagement and participation, lack of implementing mechanisms and instruments, instable institutions, excessive change, and many others.

Finally, monitoring and evaluation also pose great challenges given the lack of capacity, lack of trained human resources. In addition to the three mentioned dimensions of governance, sound leadership, inclusion, citizen education, technology and sufficient resources are also critical success factors in disaster risk governance.

Overall, disaster risk governance is a challenging, dynamic, complex, multi-dimensional and ongoing process which requires the joint effort of all sectors (the public sector, the private sector and civil society) and all groups of stakeholders at the local, national, regional and international levels. The fights against the adverse effect of hazards on the man-made environment are intensive and prolonged.

Both developed and developing countries have faced multiple challenges when discharging their duty to tackle climate change related issues and reducing the vulnerability of various stakeholder groups. However, the current governance structure, arrangements, instruments, and processes to mitigate and adapt to climate change display several limitations.

It is important to search for more holistic and comprehensive governance approaches to address the current and future challenges associated with disaster risk management.

Thus, with the support of NAPSIPAG (the Network of Asia Pacific Schools and Institutes of Public Administration and Governance), I have worked on two edited volumes titled “Land and Disaster Management Strategies in Asia” and “Strategic Disaster Risk Management in Asia” which aim to share the lessons learnt from different countries regarding how different sectors govern the process of disaster risk preparation, reduction and mitigation.

I believe that these contributions from well-known academics and researchers provides insights into risk governance can be improved in Asia and how it can make a contribution to reducing the huge numbers of people affected by disasters in the region every year as called for by Target (b) of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which is also the focus of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction.

Dr. Huong Ha is a Senior Lecturer at School of Business, Singapore University of Social Sciences. She has been affiliated with UON Singapore and University of Newcastle, Australia. Her previous positions include Dean, Director of Research and Development, Deputy Course Director, Chief Editor, Executive Director, etc. She holds a PhD from Monash University (Australia), a certificate of attendance issued by University of Oxford, Department of Continuing Education, The Oxford Teachers’ Academy, and Oxford University Press and a Master’s degree from National University of Singapore. She is one of the moderators of the IMF e-library forum on energy policy. She has many years’ experience in industry, marketing research, higher education and research in management related areas, such as change management, consumer protection, corporate social responsibility and governance. She has authored, edited or co-edited a number of books, and among them is a book titled “Change Management for Sustainability” published by Business Expert Press (USA). She has been an invited member of (i) the international editorial boards of many international journals/conferences; (ii) the scientific/technical committees of several international conferences; and (iii) international advisory board of many professional associations.

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