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How Parliamentarians can L.A.B.O.R. for disaster resilience

While hazards may be natural, disasters are not. The choices we make can either increase or decrease risk. As the planet slowly warms, parliamentarians can help. Indeed, they can L.A.B.O.R. for resilience.

The global pandemic caused by Covid-19 has been a wake-up call for the whole world. Appalling losses of life, economic devastation and ripples of insecurity have touched every corner of the planet. No one has been immune and the power (or lack thereof) of the state to prevent, prepare and respond has been severely tested. While there’s no way to guess how the pandemic would have unfolded had the world been more prepared, research repeatedly shows that disaster risk reduction and preparedness mitigate losses by large margins. Just 24 hours warning of a coming storm or heat wave can cut the ensuing damage by 30 percent.

As public tolerance for risk is decreasing; citizens around the world are increasingly exposed to growing and compounded risks, with losses now reaching between $250 and $300 billion annually, up from about $50 billion in the 1980s. Climate change interacts with other hazards - technological, biological, chemical and geopolitical, among others – which creates greater risk complexity. The impacts of disaster know no bounds, but those living in more vulnerable circumstances tend to be the hardest hit, with poorer countries registering the highest post-disaster mortality rates.

While hazards may be natural, disasters are not

Flood, earthquakes, landslides or storms become disasters because of the exposure and vulnerability of people and places. The choices we make can either increase or decrease risk. Therefore, each stakeholder has a role in reducing disaster risk. Parliamentarians are uniquely situated to help societies weather all kind of disasters with more resilience and preparation. Last year, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) launched a toolkit for parliamentarians detailing how they can help build resilience for their communities. The guidance features ten recommendations grouped into five categories: Legislate; Advocate; Budget; Oversee; Represent (L.A.B.O.R.).

Read below for a snapshot of how parliamentarians can L.A.B.O.R. for their constituency’s resilience.

Legislate

Creating legislation is one of parliamentarians’ key jobs. In this regard, using risk and vulnerability assessments, they can create both DRR (disaster risk reduction) legislation, as well as amend existing legislation to reflect and support international DRR commitments.

Advocate

Parliamentarians can advocate for governments to shift from their current event-centered, response and recovery approach to DRR to a multi-hazard approach that considers vulnerability. They can also advocate for the use of data, expertise and experience from national and international institutions, as well as from other countries, to inform their own DRR frameworks and strategies. Finally, parliamentarians can advocate for DRR to be integrated into climate change plans and initiatives.

Budget (and finance)

Determining budget allocation is another vital task for parliamentarians and here they can focus on funding long-term DRR initiatives – including allocating funds for the oversight of data collection, reporting purposes and regulation enforcement – at all levels of government. Parliamentarians can also integrate and mainstream DRR into public and private investment decisions, ensuring that investments are risk-informed.

Oversee

Accountability is an important aspect of any government investment decision. Parliamentarians can use their oversight role to evaluate government performance, effectiveness and spending for DRR initiatives, thus demonstrating their effectiveness. They can also make people aware of the impacts of regulation, enforcement and penalties. In order to support ease of use and to compare different initiatives, parliamentarians can ensure information is provided in standardized, consistent formats.

Represent

Finally, as elected officials, parliamentarians are responsible for representing all of their constituents and ensuring that DRR policies and plans meet their specific needs. This all-of-society approach must include those most vulnerable in disasters: the poor, women, girls, ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities. Parliaments can ensure that DRR strategies and commitments are durable and will survive electoral changes by using a non-partisan, holistic approach to developing DRR plans.

Using the L.A.B.O.R. framework, parliamentarians can help create disaster-ready communities, both saving lives and protecting economic resources.