Preparing The Gambia laws for future disasters

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On June 24 2014, The Gambia Red Cross and the National Disaster Management Agency of The Gambia together with IFRC held a disaster law workshop in Banjul aiming at supporting the government-initiated efforts to strengthen the country’s legal preparedness for disasters.

The purpose of the project is to join forces to improve awareness of disaster law and knowledge on disaster management legislation, to strengthen laws and procedures for disaster response, and address the issue of IDRL among legislators, and stakeholders involved in disaster risk management and response.

During the workshop, a presentation on the “Review of the National Disaster Management Act 2008” was given by Mr Essa Khan – a Consultant who has been tasked by the Gambian authorities to review the existing legislation for DM and DRR. Mr Khan underscored the fact that although the law has many solid aspects, there is a need for improving it to make it more comprehensive, coherent and taking into consideration new problematic areas as disasters have changed and increased in recent years.

Mr Khan underscored that the fact that the DM Act is supposed to tackle disaster problems in the past, the present, and the future shows the relevance of having experts do the review in order to capture all relevant areas that have not been included in the current Act.

Throughout the workshop participants discussed the wins and glitches experienced in disaster management in The Gambia and proposed contributions to the ongoing legislative review process of the National disaster management act . Fatou B. Gaye, Acting Secretary General of The Gambia Red Cross Society (GRCS), emphasized the auxiliary role of the GRCS to The Gambia government in providing humanitarian services, in particular disaster response to the people.

The participants of this workshop included representatives from the Office of the President, the Gambia Red Cross (GRCS), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gambia Immigration Department (GID), National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), National Environment Agency and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Sering Modou Joof, Deputy Executive Director of the National Disaster Management Agency, who took part in the workshop pointed out that it is very important to have this training on the structures and legal frameworks for disaster management. “It came at the right time for the country and this will help in the coordination of disaster activities”, Mr. Joof continued.

When asked about what he thinks that the Gambia should do about IDRL, he stated that that The Gambia should ratify the document by law makers i.e. the National Assembly, and should similarly empower law enforcement agencies. According to Mr. Joof ratifying laws without implementing is meaningless. “The recommendations in the IDRL Guidelines is generally fitting in our current situation as a preparatory tool for disaster interventions and in preparation for Disaster Risk Reduction as our institutions lack respond capacities in the right manners”.

Discussions among the workshop participants from various agencies reflected the positive aspects of the currently existing legal framework in The Gambia with regards to facilitating incoming assistance. For example, there are no custom charges on goods entering the country that are geared towards humanitarian aid. Also, representatives from the Immigration Department pointed out, international delegates of the Red Cross do not face visa problems in the country as they are normally provided with a clearance form that will guaranty them a free and safe stay in the country.

As a result of the workshop, the Office of the President, the National Disaster Management Agency, the Gambia RCS and IFRC agreed on the need to hold two additional workshops on disaster law in the Gambia. The first training will be organized targeting parliamentarians, customs officers, governors, senior officers of immigration, Ministry of Justice, Attorney General Office, Gambia Civil Aviation Authorities and Gambia Ports Authorities; whiles the second training will target member of the national platform for DRR and CCA. These additional trainings will be designed to increase the knowledge of the senior policy makers within the government so that the process to strengthen disaster laws can be supported at all levels.