Algeria says focus on communities in "new HFA"

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Slumps and cracks in a road near Algiers following a destructive earthquake of 6.8 magnitude that hit the region of Boumerdes and Algiers on May 21, 2003. Since then, Algeria passed Law 04-20 making disaster risk management a national priority as outlined in the HFA. © Djillali Benour. University of Bab Ezzour, Algeria

By Lars Bernd

CAIRO, 20 February 2013 - Algeria has held North Africa's first national review of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) as UNISDR's consultations continue around the world on developing a new global framework for disaster risk reduction by 2015.

"The new framework needs to maintain key elements of the current HFA but it should also focus on strengthening areas where progress has been slow," said Latifa Benazza, Director for Environment and Sustainable Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ms. Benazza added that any new framework needs to include more technical support programmes and technology transfer to support developing countries.

Dr. Mohamed Belzougui, Director of the National Centre for Applied Research in Seismic Engineering, said: "Decision makers and technical personnel need to be better equipped to exert their most important functions in disaster risk reduction through training and access to cutting-edge technology."

Over 60 participants from government departments, technical services, universities and the Red Crescent took part in the two-day review this week and many found that HFA implementation has been weak on engagement with local communities.

Algeria has seen many achievements since the HFA was adopted in 2005 and the country keeps alive memories of the May 2003 Boumèrdes earthquake which caused 2,226 deaths and the 2001 floods which claimed over 800 lives in Algiers.

These events spurred the government to pass law 04-20 on December 25, 2004, just a day before the Asian tsunami which influenced the universal acceptance of the HFA a month later with its five priority areas for action. Law 04-20 saw Algeria make disaster risk management a national priority as outlined in the HFA.

Since then, the country has notably embarked on replacing 540,000 homes in an effort to reduce vulnerability to natural hazards as well as producing new risk maps, new research and expanding the resources available for disaster risk reduction.

New laws and technical guidelines -- including seismic and construction codes - have also been developed. Capacities for response have also been improved. Intervention plans for disaster response include safety of energy resources.

Early warning systems have been developed and some decentralization of disaster risk reduction has taken place with every region now having a surveillance unit for disaster risk. A national disaster response fund has been set up. Risk education has also been integrated into school curricula.

The national HFA consultation was organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UNISDR and UNDP. Funding was provided through the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.