By Biljana Markova
Geneva - The Finnish government has officially accepted the Peer Review report on its implementation of the global blueprint for disaster risk reduction, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) which was adopted in 2005 and is due to be renewed next year at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, in Sendai, Japan.
While some 140 countries have voluntarily reported on HFA implementation, Finland is only the second country – after the UK - to undergo this kind of peer review of its progress. Several countries speaking at this week’s First Session of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee for the World Conference have recommended that peer reviews should be part of the monitoring mechanism for the Post-2015 global framework for disaster risk reduction.
The Finnish report highlights that the country has developed advanced policies and capacities in risk management, with well-established cutting-edge national strategies. These are based on whole-of-society approaches to secure the vital functions of society, and to develop risk-awareness. These policies benefited also from a high level of trust among citizens, a cooperative attitude in society and a sense of solidarity, and high-quality public services from national to local levels.
To address the new challenges faced by Finland (e.g. ageing society, urbanisation, globalisation and the changing hazard patterns caused by climate change), the report identifies also a number of recommendations that aim to strengthen linkages for policy implementation and monitoring and to increase risk awareness across levels of government. Preparing for large-scale risks and increasing prevention and risk reduction efforts is considered an area to be further embedded in national policy.
Elizabeth Longworth, Director of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Stéphane Jacobzone, Deputy Head of Division, Reform of the Public Sector, OECD, and Florika Fink-Hooijer, Director of the European Commission Directorate General of International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, handed over the report to Ambassador Päivi Kairamo and Minister and Deputy Permanent Representative to the Permanent Mission of Finland in Geneva, Antti Rytövuori, during the Preparatory Committee meeting this week. Ambassador Kairamo is also co-Chair of the Preparatory Committee.
Ambassador Kairamo commented: “Finland is very pleased to become the second country to undergo the Peer Review process in last October. Although Finland is not highly prone to natural hazards, there are areas where good progress has been made, such as private sector and business continuity, open-data policy on risk-related information, early warning systems and use of research and technological innovation in policy making. These were well-captured in the review.”
UNISDR Director, Elizabeth Longworth, said: "We are pleased to see that the strong partnership with and support from the European Commission and the technical expertise of OECD, have worked towards a process that allows for a multi-stakeholder approach in viewing advances towards resilience to disasters.”
Florika Fink-Hooijer of the European Commission, said: “By volunteering to undertake this Peer Review and use its final outcome, the Finnish government has demonstrated its commitment to improve its national disaster risk management policy. Beyond the benefits for Finland, the Peer Review process is very important at EU level for fostering EU solidarity and strengthening the EU cooperation in disaster risk management.
“Now, with the new EU civil protection legislation all EU Member Members have supported the Peer Review process, which can be in the future widely used by Member States to improve risk management governance and share good practices. Peer Reviews have been also an important contribution that the EU has brought to the international scene and in the discussions on the post-2015 Hyogo Framework for Action.”
OECD’s Stephane Jacobzone commented on “Finland’s whole of society approach to build resilience to disasters,” which he said is a “major achievement reflecting the country’s strengths in participatory governance, very well aligned with the OECD Recommendation on the Governance of Critical Risks. Sharing of best practices through Peer Reviews is critical to ensure better policies for better lives, as illustrated by this report, a first class outcome of the excellent cooperation between the UNISDR, the OECD and the European Commission.”
Following the successful undertaking of the Peer Review in the UK in 2012, Finland volunteered to be the second country to undergo the Peer Review process, which was conducted from 7-12 October in Helsinki, Finland, with Austria, France, Georgia and the UK acting as the peers.
Over 37 stakeholders from 20 different stakeholder organizations were interviewed, including central government authorities and agencies, non-governmental organizations, volunteer organizations, academia and businesses. The Peer Review was carried out with financial support from the European Commission, with an in-kind contribution from UNISDR Europe and the dedicated time and expertise of the peers.
Europe pioneered the Peer Review through the European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction and within the EU cooperation in disaster risk manage¬ment, which provides a framework for cooperation and mutual learning between Member States in the field of disaster risk management and civil protection. It benefited from OECD High-Level Risk Forum guidance and experience in conducting peer reviews in disaster risk management policies.
After Finland, more countries are expected to follow suit as the importance of building disaster resilience gathers momentum within the EU and worldwide and the European Commission plans to upscale the reviewing processes in the years to come with opportunities for more countries to be reviewed.