[dmwg] UN, World Bank to help Southeast Asia reduce disasters
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Sat May 23 18:33:42 BST 2009
Fri, 15:32 22 May 2009 GMT
UN, World Bank to help Southeast Asia reduce disasters
22 May 2009 15:26:00 GMT
Written by: Thin Lei Win
Residents are evacuated from their flooded homes in the Indonesian capital of
Jakarta, January 2009. REUTERS/Crack Palinggi (INDONESIA)
Earlier this month, the World Bank, the United Nations and the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed an agreement to cooperate on reducing the
risk of disasters in the region.
Pooling funds and knowledge is an emerging trend in efforts to prevent
disasters, which are causing growing human and economic losses, according to a
recent landmark report by the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
"In this day and age, no one institution can claim to have a monopoly on either
the expertise or the resources. And we simply can't waste resources by all of us
doing the same thing," said John Roome, the World Bank's director for
sustainable development in East Asia and the Pacific. "If you can find ways of
getting different organisations to collaborate...this offers all sorts of
opportunities and benefits."
Under the agreement, which lasts five years, the World Bank will provide
technical assistance through helping develop disaster risk reduction (DRR)
frameworks, sharing good practices and managing assessments after a disaster.
The ISDR will input guidance and monitoring on DRR, and the ASEAN secretariat
will support and coordinate member countries. The aim is to bring DRR and
disaster management issues to the forefront of government agendas.
This week, the three partners unveiled the plan at their first forum and
training workshop in Bali, which was attended by international relief agencies
and U.N. and ASEAN officials.
Southeast Asia has always been susceptible to disasters. From the devastation
wrought by last year's Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the 2004 tsunami, to storms
in the Philippines, landslides in Vietnam and flooding in landlocked Laos, the
region is regularly beset by natural hazards.
Worse, such risks are - if anything - likely to increase as climate change
brings more extreme weather patterns.
Yet the concept of "risk financing" is new in the region, with Southeast Asian
countries currently resorting to a pay-as-you-go system, according to Roome.
"You have a disaster, you have a certain amount of impact and you basically pay
for it at that point in time," he said. "There's no risk pooling and insurance
mechanism in place."
One example of doing things differently is a livestock insurance mechanism
operating in Mongolia under which communities club together to cover losses from
livestock death due to severe weather. The government reimburses the community
if losses reach a certain level, and the World Bank steps in in the event of a
The ISDR and ASEAN secretariat hope the new agreement will help Southeast Asian
nations benefit from the knowledge and practical lessons generated by such schemes.
"One of the biggest issues is the lack of capacity, both within the ASEAN
secretariat and certain parts of the member states," said Jerry Velasquez,
regional coordinator for ISDR.
ISDR is also reaching out to new sectors such as private businesses, which have
never really been engaged in a systematic way but have been implementing
corporate social responsibility programmes that strengthen communities' capacity
to withstand disasters and reduce risks.
Velasquez said the aim is to make good use of the World Bank's considerable
resources at country level so that all ASEAN states will have in place
legislation and a strategy for DRR, which they will be rolling out with
strengthened capacity by 2015.
This may seem like an ambitious plan, especially in a region with extremely
inequitable levels of development, governance and poverty. Still, ISDR says
governments are showing greater levels of commitment to reducing disaster risk.
Indonesia, for example, not only adopted legislation on disaster management in
2007, but has also set up a national body to deal with disasters.
And the ASEAN agreement on disaster management and emergency response (AADMER),
adopted in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, has been ratified by all members
except Brunei and the Philippines, which are expected to do so by next May. If
this happens, the agreement will be the world's legally binding instrument on DRR.
More important than signatures on a piece of paper, however, is the level of
national understanding, awareness and willingness to implement disaster
reduction practices. This will be challenging and requires a long-term commitment.
"There are a lot of things that can be developed, but we cannot make the
decisions," said Velasquez. "The countries will have to make these decisions.
But what we're promising is that we will support them once they are made."
Roome agreed political will is essential. "We're happy to help, to motivate, to
advocate, to provide analytics, to provide financing, but it's only going to
work if the countries see the importance and take the actions needed to move
forward," he said.
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