By Denis McClean
ABUJA, 15 May 2014 - From school to university education, from early warning to data collection, and from national development plans to community-based participation, Ethiopia has made solid gains in implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action, the global agreement on disaster risk reduction adopted in 2005.
Yesterday was a day for sharing HFA experiences at the 5th Africa Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) as Africa prepares for a Ministerial-level meeting here on Friday which will influence the continent’s proposals for inclusion in the new Post-2015 framework for DRR to be adopted next year.
Ethiopia’s Mr. DRR, Tadesse Bekele Fanta, impressed with a comprehensive account of his country’s efforts which include a decisive departure from a sole focus on drought to a multi-hazard approach but he was clear that “the capacity issue is the main challenge” at all levels in disaster risk reduction.
Among Ethiopia’s achievements in implementing the HFA, he listed a weather risk management system which collects data from remote weather stations to provide early warning information to support early action. An extensive data base of disaster events has been established.
At national level, the country’s five year development plan integrates DRR and climate change adaptation. Disaster risk profiles have been created for 300 districts and these form the nucleus of a new Information Management System. Urban areas will be included in the near future and strong new city building codes have been introduced.
DRR has been integrated into the country’s school curriculum and a Center for Disaster Risk Management has been established at university level welcoming students from outside Ethiopia.
Mauricio Xerinda, Director of Mozambique’s National Emergency Operations Centre, said the HFA has helped the country to act in order to reduce the disaster mortality and economic losses and put the government in a leadership role in implementing DRR across the country. This was particularly evident in the improvements around flood management including better early warning, re-location of endangered communities and better management of dams.
Similarly, Amadou Fall Canar Diop of Senegal’s Ministry for Flood Management, reported that in Senegal the Government has used the HFA to build resilience to floods as outlined in ten year plan published in 2012. Just this week, the Senegal government announced plans to relocate 2,000 families from flood-affected areas in the Dakar region.
Speaking on institutional strengthening under the HFA, Gabon’s Hortense Togo highlighted creation of a directorate-general for DRR as well as an inter-ministerial coordinating mechanism for emergency management; and a national legal framework on DRR that has guided the development of a national contingency plan.
Ms. Togo also referred to mapping of risk-prone areas; strengthening weather services; and adopting building codes; pollution control measures and the development of a national plan for the prevention of epidemics.
Sharon Rusu, Head of UNISDR for Africa, presented a review of HFA implementation based on government reporting. She pointed out that some of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa which presented an opportunity for governments to prevent the accumulation of new risk and to put safety nets in place in terms of the environment, urbanization, and rural economies.
Ms. Rusu noted that while progress was reported at national level across all five HFA priority areas, predominantly progress has been on early warnings and preparedness but insufficient advances had been made on Priority 4, tackling underlying risks. “We need to underline how important it is to to develop policies to address underlying risk factors,” she said.
Two of Africa’s foremost parliamentarians and DRR advocates, Rachel Shebesh, Kenya, and Abdou Sane, presided over a session which focussed on Managing Risk: Policy and Institutions which focussed on gaps in current HFA implementation.
Mozambique government representative, Xavier Agostinho Chavana identified the following challenges with HFA implementation: the absence of institutions with the legal capacity to advocate for DRR mainstreaming at all levels; the absence of clear goals and targets; and the lack of funding. He said that even though Mozambique allocates 8% of its national budget to DRR, it was still not enough.
“It is difficult to have goals with commitments and targets,” he said.
Emmanuel Tommy, Secretary-General of the Sierra Leone Red Cross, advocated for better laws on DRR and a checklist to ensure major obstacles to implementation are removed at the outset. He observed that DRR legislation too often overlooks the need to mandate the provision of resources to support action at local level.
Regina Pritchett of the Huairou Commission, the global coalition of grassroots women’s organizations which coordinates ISDR Community Practitioners Platform called for greater links between the Platform and National Platforms for DRR to make up the gap in HFA implementation at community level. She also called for a re-allocation of resources from disaster response and recovery to building resilience before disaster strikes. “We would like to see a HFA2 which addresses the re-distribution of resources.”
During the plenary, Moderator, Rachel Shebesh, who is also a member of the Pan-African Parliament, called for a pause in the proceedings to allow delegates to express their support, however they wished, for the efforts being made to return the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped a month ago. There was a standing ovation in response.