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A critical disconnect: the role of SAARC in building the DRM capacities of South Asian Countries

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This study considers the different elements of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Disaster Management Centre (DMC)’s efforts over the last decade and assesses their impact in supporting the national capacities of member states. This study evaluates the development of disaster risk management (DRM) national architecture and activities in two case study countries in South Asia, namely India and Nepal, to get a better sense of where these countries stand with regard to DRM capabilities and to understand what role, if any, regional approaches have had in reinforcing national systems. As this paper went to press, a 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal, the most powerful in 80 years, killing at least 6,000 persons (and possibly as many as 10,000) and affecting an additional eight million. This paper does not endeavor to assess the full extent of earthquake losses or the emergency relief efforts still unfolding in Nepal at the time of its publication. Instead, it maps out the national architecture and systems that were in place in disaster-affected country and across the sub-region prior to the disaster.

The larger objective of this work is to compare the actions of SAARC in South Asia with the actions of regional organizations in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands regions. This study is a follow-up effort to a more general analysis about the work of regional organizations in DRM globally called 'In the Neighborhood: The Role of Regional Organizations in Disaster Risk Management' that was published by Brookings Institution in 2013 and a complement to more detailed sub-regional analyses of DRM capacity building work in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. It is the hope that a thorough study of the relationship of regional organizations with member states, and with national disaster management agencies in particular, can offer greater insight into what regional activities are useful to national governments in their efforts to prevent and respond to disasters.