Hello Ms Tessa,
You have asked a pertinent question. I think the global community should seriously brainstorm on a Rights-based paradigm to address the basic needs of disaster victims. How far a nation-state can move in this direction would entirely depend on its political will and ability to bear the cost of granting a legal right to compensation to its citizens.
It is also a relative concept as every nation-state has a fundamental right to decide the parameters of how to grant a Right to Compensation to its citizens who are disaster victims.
A new rights-based paradigm to award compensation to disaster victims would first require a debate on the broad definition of compensation per se and delineation of an acceptable legal system for the identification of beneficiaries. I think such
a rights-based paradigm should include a right to every disaster-affected person to reconstruct their dwelling and recreation of livelihood opportunities for them. A legal mechanism to scientifically assess the quantum of loss following a disaster must also be incorporated in the DM Act. The broad focus should be on constructing a legislative framework which respects the right of every citizen to seek relief and compensation.
Some developed countries have incorporated specific provisions in their Disaster Management laws to help disaster victims. In the United States, the "Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act" (broadly referred to as "The Stafford Act") clearly outlines the broad responsibilities of the State in providing compulsory relief and compensation to disaster victims. The Section 410 of "The Stafford Act" has a provision for grant of an "Unemployment Assistance" to disaster victims who has lost their source of livelihood.
I think such a legalized mechanism to grant compensation to disaster victims would be especially significant in developing and under-developed countries which have to face the wrath of seasonal floods every year. In many ways, the seasonal floods often perpetuate poverty by wiping off meager assets poor build every year. Government of India has officially acknowledged this fact. As a Home Ministry Report argued in 2011,
“Poverty and risk to disasters are inextricably linked and mutually reinforcing. The poor section of the society is worst affected in case of disaster…Poverty also compels the poor to migrate and live at physically more vulnerable locations,often on unsafe land and in unsafe shelters. These inhabitations of the poor at such locations are either due to the fact that there is no other land available at reasonable cost or it is close to the employment opportunities. The inhabitations of the poor people on marginal land are prone to all types ofdisasters. The type of construction of these houses further deteriorates the condition.These dwellings made up of low cost material without giving much consideration to technical aspect are easy targets ofvarious hazards”. [Ministry of Home Affairs, “Disaster Management in India (2011), Page-14.
[[Full Report is available on : http://www.undp.org/content/dam/india/docs/disaster_management_in_india.pdf]]
As for your second question, the idea of strengthening a disaster mitigation culture in a given State has to be a continuous endeavour. Government and the Civil Society will have to jointly work to sensitize the communities to strengthen their disaster mitigation strategies. Just by incorporating this idea in a Law won't help. The Disaster Management Act in India has specific provisions in this regard but it has not been seriously implemented on the ground in many states including Jammu and Kashmir.
I think every nation will have to formulate a multi-pronged strategy to strengthen its disaster risk reduction strategies and make communities resilient to face natural disasters.
Himanshu Shekhar Mishra
Associate Editor-Government Affairs
New Delhi Television (NDTV) India