Waste and inefficiency are constant challenges for disaster preparedness and response, as you have highlighted. There is not just one obstacle to overcome, this is an incredibly multi-faceted problem that crosses all sectors and expands in many directions. Disasters are highly political as well, and regardless of how good plans and coordination is leading up to the disaster, the response may be impacted by political choices that are ill-informed or ill-intended.
This is not to say there aren’t communities across the world who haven’t found a good formula. Many of these successes have relied on the age-old formula of having a champion, be it a person or an institution, who moves disaster preparedness forward no matter the challenge. This approach can be incredibly effective, at least for the short term, but inherently includes the danger that the gains are sustainable only as long as the champion remains.
For the purpose of this discussion, I think it is worth highlighting that some of the most interesting examples of preparedness initiatives that have real potential for sustainability have actually started outside the disaster preparedness arena. By approaching the challenge from a new angle, resilience champions have been able to change the dynamic of the conversation in a way that opens up new opportunities to navigate existing politics or systemic obstacles. Rallying points such as the threat of climate change impacts, the opportunities presented by new technologies, or the fear of pandemics have all been used to good effect to spark new conversations.
In recent years many of the most exciting and innovative examples of disaster preparedness appear to be coming from the city level. For specific examples of cities overcoming the difficulties of waste, inefficiency or stagnation, I would recommend looking at UNISDR’s “Role Model City” program whose winners in recent years have spanned cities in Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Pacific. Makati City in the Philippines has also done some interesting work on city-to-city learning with Quito, Ecuador and Kathmandu, Nepal, which is a good reminder of the importance of South-South learning. Additionally, the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program offers to provide future good examples by introducing standards, accountability, and leveraging a sense of friendly competition. Certainly there was a lot of interest worldwide among officials as cities competed to prove that they could commit to deliver what it takes become (and stay) resilient, and it is hoped that this interest foreshadows the results that will be produced in the coming years.