Six ways Southeast Asia strengthened disaster risk management

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Vietnam Stock Images/Shutterstock
Vietnam Stock Images/Shutterstock

Southeast Asia is one of the most hazard-prone regions in Asia and the Pacific. The region suffered $91 billion in financial losses in 2004–2014 from the impacts of typhoons, storm surges, floods, drought, and earthquakes. Southeast Asia’s poor and vulnerable are also the ones most likely to be adversely affected when disasters strike. 

To advance proactive integrated disaster risk management measures within ADB’s developing member countries (DMCs) in Southeast Asia, ADB and the Government of Canada established the Integrated Disaster Risk Management (IDRM) Fund in February 2013. The IDRM Fund funded 19 technical assistance projects, including knowledge-sharing activities, in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam. 

The fund supported projects that promoted cross-border disaster risk management solutions in the region and actions aligned with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response.

A new report, The Integrated Disaster Risk Management Fund: Sharing Lessons and Achievements, identified six lessons from the projects supported by the IDRM Fund.

1. Enhanced risk identification and analysis

Under the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Flood and Drought Risk Management and Mitigation Project, ADB assisted Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Viet Nam in reducing economic losses from floods and drought by pairing water management infrastructure upgrades with enhanced weather forecasting to improve disaster preparedness. The project also supported the design development of flood and drought risk mitigation schemes in the Mekong Delta.

2. Increased investment in disaster risk reduction

Projects in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand helped officials improve processes in risk-sensitive decision-making for public investments. They included considering a holistic and integrated approach in building disaster risk resilience in the face of rapid urban expansion. Land zoning and building and construction codes should also consider climate and disaster risk to ensure that new developments do not increase exposure to natural hazards. A typhoon-resilient low-income housing technical guideline—recommending practical designs to strengthen the foundation, walls, and roofs of a house—was used in the post-disaster reconstruction of houses in Da Nang City, Viet Nam. 

3. Improved access to disaster risk finance

The IDRM Fund supported the Philippines in designing the world’s first city disaster insurance pool, covering earthquakes and typhoons. The insurance pool was carefully structured to address the need for rapid access to early recovery financing post-disaster. Other countries in Southeast Asia have shown interest in replicating the city disaster insurance pool. Insurance for microfinance institutions against extreme weather events was also tested in Myanmar, providing a design for a not-for-profit contingent disaster liquidity facility that allows microfinance institutions to provide loans, with near-zero interest rates, to disaster-affected clients.

4. Scaling up of community-based and gender-focused approaches

Government officials from Southeast Asia participated in a workshop where they presented investment projects that provide opportunities for strengthening women’s climate and disaster resilience, especially poor women. Engaging community-based women organizations, allowing open participation in capacity-building, and engaging with local governments had more immediate impacts in empowering communities and the most vulnerable for disaster risk management. Incorporating climate and disaster resilience in social protection programs strengthens the capacity of poor households and vulnerable populations in responding to, and recovering from, disasters. 

5. Increased regional cooperation on IDRM

Road sector databases in Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic were integrated into the United Nations Development Programme’s existing databases, which aim to comprehensively track disaster loss in key sectors. The integration supports sector investments, demonstrating the application of disaster risk information in decision making. The project also provided incentives from the private sector to continue the business sector’s capacity building on resilience in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

6. Enhanced knowledge and tools for IDRM

A forum for local and central government officials from the Philippines supported recovery efforts from Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, including the exchange of regional and international best practices. The exercise underlined the importance of disaster recovery planning, especially relating to land use, disaster risk assessments, and ease of access to disaster risk information. Post-disaster recovery, based on a strategic framework with a clear institutional setup and coordination mechanism, should be commenced while relief is ongoing to reduce the overall fiscal burden of a disaster.

The review of support provided by the IDRM fund showed the growing availability of various IDRM-related tools to address the needs of stakeholders, especially vulnerable groups and, particularly, women. Advancing gender equality in disaster risk management was prioritized, with approximately 25% of the total fund supporting activities with gender equality as its key focus. The fund also assisted the disaster risk management-related priorities of ASEAN, with specific support to five priority areas of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response Work Programme 2016-2020.

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