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Implementing Sendai to reduce humanitarian burden

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By Denis McClean

ISTANBUL, Turkey, 25 May 2016 - The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction has peppered the speeches of government representatives making commitments at the World Humanitarian Summit which closed yesterday.

In particular, the ten ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) countries which have been at the centre of some of the world’s worst recent disasters led a debate yesterday on how building resilience to disasters can help reduce the humanitarian burden.

ASEAN was the first region in the world to adopt a legally binding framework on disaster risk management which entered into force in 2009, said Ms. Adelina Kamal, Director, ASEAN Secretariat.

The new five year plan for ongoing implementation of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response is based on the Sendai Framework which was adopted in March 2015 by UN Member States as a guide to reducing the impact of both man-made and natural hazards.

Ms. Kamal said that as a result of experiences in responding to disasters such as the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Cyclone Nargis and Typhoon Haiyan which together claimed over 370,000 lives and devastated many countries across the Indian Ocean, ASEAN was now a world leader in disaster risk management.

The region which comprises Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam was in a position to share what it had developed with the rest of the world and to reduce the humanitarian burden through leadership and partnership.

In a keynote address to the gathering, UNISDR head, Mr. Robert Glasser, praised the ASEAN agreement as remarkable and in line with the focus in the Sendai Framework on disaster risk management as opposed to disaster management.

He said disaster risk reduction was essential in a world where we are no longer meeting humanitarian needs even as these needs rise. The distinction between conflict and natural hazard related disasters was becoming increasingly blurred given the interconnectedness of the underlying risk drivers including poverty, exposure, population growth, drought and climate change.

Ms. Monique Pariat, Director General of the EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department, ECHO, said the ECHO, said that implementation of the Sendai Framework has to be a collective effort and that 2016 must be year of delivery.

“Disaster risk reduction is a global challenge. We have a unique opportunity to ensure coherence with other 2015 agreements, with what was decided in New York, the sustainable development goals, and in Paris, the COP 21 climate change agreement. And with what will be agreed in Istanbul where disaster risk reduction is a key priority,” she said.

Ms. Pariate added that in June the European Commission will publish an action plan on Sendai implementation which will identify a number of key areas to strengthen the implementation of the Framework at EU level and the four priorities of the Sendai Framework will be translated across EU policies.

Ms. Farah Kabir, chair of the GNDR Global Board, Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction, said that GNDR now has over 800 members and that the Sendai Framework is at the core of GNDR’s thinking about how to build resilience to disasters. While the State has the primate responsibility for reducing disaster risk community resilience is the foundation and civil society has many roles to play including implementation, capacity building, knowledge sharing and advocacy.

Ms. Kabir said it was vital to reduce the vulnerability of marginal groups and to enhance their resilience so they graduate out of poverty. This can be done by focusing on local capacities and knowledge gained through experience of disasters. Women have to be “front and centre” of efforts to build back better.

Mr. Said Faisal, Executive Director, ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management, said ASEAN now had a five year work plan to implement the Sendai Framework. He emphasised that disaster risk reduction is cross sectoral and there is a need to share the sense of ownership of disaster management and that sustainable financing is important to achieve the ASEAN vision of a disaster resilient society.

Dr. Faizal Perdaus, President, MERCY Malaysia, and chair of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), said disaster risk reduction became a model of operations after the Indian Ocean tsunami with the adoption of the Hyogo Framework for Action.

Dr. Perdaud said there was a challenge in getting communities to understand that disaster risk reduction was something which they could benefit from. “We fully embraced the Sendai Framework when we saw the word resilience coming to the fore and the word sustainable coming to the fore.”