By Omar Hussein Amach
VIENTIANE, 8 August 2019 – As the Government of Lao People's Democratic Republic continues its recovery from the floods of 2018, it is seeking to lessen the risk of future disasters. To accomplish this, the Lao Government and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction jointly organized a national workshop that brought together development partners and government agencies to lay the foundation for the country’s first national disaster risk reduction strategy.
The need for a national disaster risk reduction strategy was made clear nearly a year ago when Laos experienced its worst flooding in decades as a result of the collapse of the dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydropower project following heavy rains. The floods inundated 12 villages, killing at least 90 people, and left thousands displaced.
“The Party and the Government have recognized and are trying to address the risks of climate change and the effects of natural and man-made disasters that have damaged people’s lives and assets economically, socially and environmentally,” said Dr Khampheng Saysompheng, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare and Chairman of the National Disaster Prevention and Control Committee. “The development of an Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction is a government priority for planning, investment in socio-economic development, implementation of rural development strategies, and poverty reduction,” he added.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, which has the lead for disaster planning, invited participants from across the government, in addition to international and civic organizations, to support the strategy development effort. This multi-sectoral approach is critical to supporting the implementation of the strategy and ensuring that risk-informed development is embedded in the plans and budgets of line ministries and local governments.
“The best way to deal with systemic risks is by avoiding the old business model of compartmentalizing disaster risk reduction as an isolated activity and adopting a ‘systems approach’ to addressing all risks,” said Ms Sara Sekkenes, the UN Resident Coordinator in Lao PDR.
The workshop was also an opportunity for development partners to share case studies and map ongoing efforts to reduce disaster risk, which could be leveraged to support implementation of the national strategy.
The development of a national strategy to reduce disaster risks and build resilience is one of the primary targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a 15-year global roadmap for reducing disaster losses. The development of a strategy focused on reducing risks will help Lao PDR address root causes of disasters and safeguard social and economic development gains.
Participants also received training on how to report on progress in achieving the goals of the Sendai Framework. Using the Sendai Monitor tool, Laos will report on a set of 38 indicators which tracks progress on reducing their disaster risks. Some of these indicators are associated with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the training highlighted the need for a “whole of society” approach to data collection and analysis.
The four-day workshop, which ran from 5-8 August, was held in the capital city Vientiane with funding support from the Korean Ministry of the Interior and Safety and Incheon Metropolitan City.