Editorial: Disaster resilience at the local level

THERE’S a new publication from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) that is a must-read for local government executives.

It's entitled, "Words into Action Guidelines: Implementation guide for local disaster risk reduction and resilience strategies - A companion for implementing the Sendai Framework target E (2018 - Public consultation version)". You can download it from here - http://bit.ly/2tGUeeT

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (Sendai Framework) takes over from Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 (HFA) and brings the level of action not just on hazards, exposure, and vulnerability of populations to actions through prospective, corrective and compensatory measures. In the process, the focus of the Sendai Framework is on the local level and how the local communities and authorities should react to reduce the risks, exposure, and vulnerabilities. Thus, one of the platforms is building resilient cities.

The UNISDR recognizes ten essentials for building resilient cities. These are:

1. Organize for Disaster Resilience, where an organizational structure, processes, and procedures are fully identified to reduce exposure to disaster risks and the impact and vulnerability to the populace and vital infrastructure and services.

2. Identify, Understand and Use Current and Future Risk Scenarios to learn from the past and in the process be able to make informed decisions instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

3. Strengthen Financial Capacity for Resilience simply because disasters cost a lot and recovery will cost even more. "Resources can come from city revenues, national distribution and allocations to sectoral departments, public-private partnerships and technical cooperation, as well as civil society and external organizations," UNISDR writes.

4. Pursue Resilient Urban Development and Design as integrating resilience into socio-economic development plans and infrastructure not only safeguards development investments, it also ensures that the facilities and services of these facilities are able to serve the people when they are at their most needy state.

5. Safeguard Natural Buffers to Enhance Ecosystems’ Protective Functions. Time and again, it has been prove that the ecosystem provides natural protection, giving the greatest impetus to protect it as well; like natural clean water, firewood for cooking, and landscape that doesn't crumble and bury the people because of abuse and misuse.

6. Strengthen Institutional Capacity for Resilience as it is the institutions in place, including the local government that will be the first and sustained responders.

7. Understand and Strengthen Societal Capacity for Resilience. There can never be enough drills, there can never be enough preparations, and there can never be enough information dissemination.

8. Increase Infrastructure Resilience as in times of disaster, infrastructure to communicate, transport, bring water, power, and emergency services are most vital.

9. Ensure Effective Disaster Response. Preparedness efforts, early warning systems and communication systems must all be in place, all the time, and people must be properly informed and trained on what to do.
10. Expedite Recovery and Build Back Better. By now, we should have learned our lessons from typhoon Yolanda. That says it all.

There are case studies to learn from, there are inputs worth pondering on. One thing is certain, being disaster-ready is now a must among local authorities, and it pays to learn from how others are doing it best and what are the potholes to be avoided.