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Law and Disaster Preparedness and Response: Multi-Country Synthesis Report



A. Context

Disasters cause massive human suffering and economic loss. In 2017 alone, 318 natural disasters occurred in 122 countries resulting in 9,503 deaths, affecting 96 million people and causing US$314 billion in economic damage.19 The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), through its Disaster Law Programme, aims to reduce human vulnerability to disasters by promoting effective legal and policy frameworks for disaster management. The Disaster Law Programme works in three main areas: providing technical assistance to governments to strengthen their laws; building the capacity of National Societies and other stakeholders on disaster law; and conducting research and advocacy, including developing and disseminating guidance on best practice.

B. Existing Guidance on Best Practice

In 2007, after years of intensive research and consultations, the IFRC released the Guidelines for the Domestic Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance (the IDRL Guidelines).20 The IDRL Guidelines are a set of recommendations to governments on how to prepare their disaster laws and plans for the common regulatory problems in international disaster relief operations. The IDRL Guidelines were unanimously adopted by the states party to the Geneva Conventions and the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement on 30 November 2007 at the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

In 2008, the UN General Assembly adopted three resolutions encouraging states to make use of the IDRL Guidelines; In the subsequent decade, the IDRL Guidelines have been frequently referred to in UN General Assembly resolutions and have been used extensively in domestic disaster law and policy making processes. The Guidelines have subsequently been supplemented with a Model Act, a Model Emergency Decree and a Checklist, all designed to ease the task of implementing the Guidelines at the domestic level. Since 2007, nearly 40 countries have adopted new laws or procedures drawing on the IDRL Guidelines, and National Societies provided their advice and support to implement the recommendations of the IDRL Guidelines in over 100 countries.

In 2012, the IFRC and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) embarked on a joint initiative to study and develop guidance on law relating to disaster risk reduction (DRR). In October 2015, they released the final version of The Checklist on Law and Disaster Risk Reduction (the DRR Checklist). IFRC and UNDP also released a more detailed Handbook on Law and Disaster Risk Reduction to provide detailed guidance on how to answer the Checklist questions. The DRR Checklist was informed by a multi-country report on the DRR-related legislation of 31 countries, and extensive consultations on a pilot version of the DRR Checklist.

The Disaster Law Programme has received many requests from Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies to aid them in providing technical assistance to their authorities to develop laws relating to disaster preparedness and response. The existing guidance documents do not, however, address these aspects of disaster management. In 2017, in order to address this significant gap, IFRC embarked on a project to develop a Checklist on Law and Disaster Preparedness and Response. The purpose of this Report is to inform the proposed Checklist, by identifying the key issues that should be included and providing detailed recommendations about how to develop law and policy to address those issues.

C. Methodology

IFRC commissioned two inputs to inform this Report: first, a literature review on 10 topics that are integral to disaster preparedness and response (the Literature Review); and second, 20 country desktop reviews of domestic laws relevant to disaster preparedness and response (the Desktop Reviews). Both the Literature Review and the Desktop Reviews are available on IFRC’s website. The Literature Review identifies and briefly summarises the key resources on each topic including: international legal materials; academic books and articles; reports and case studies; and existing guidelines, standards and recommendations. The Desktop Reviews respond to a template containing a series of questions, which is also available on IFRC’s website.

The 20 countries selected for the Desktop Reviews were: Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Finland, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Mexico, Palestine, Paraguay, Philippines, South Africa, Senegal, the United Kingdom and Vietnam (together, the Sample Countries). The Sample Countries represent the full spectrum of disaster risk levels, including 8 of the top 30 countries most at risk from disasters. They also represent most geographic regions of the world and the full spectrum of the human development index, from low through to very high human development.

This Report is based on an analysis of the 20 Desktop Reviews and the literature on disaster preparedness and response, as identified by the Literature Review. The Report contains ten thematic chapters, each of which addresses a cluster of related issues in disaster preparedness and response. Each chapter discusses the issues in depth and, using the 20 Desktop Reviews, analyses the extent to which those issues are already adequately addressed by domestic law in the Sample Countries. The chapters also draw on the Desktop Reviews to provide examples of good practice in the Sample Countries. Each chapter concludes with a ‘Recommendations’ section that provides domestic decisionmakers with guidance about how to develop domestic disaster law and policy. Here, the term ‘domestic decision-maker’ is used as shorthand for any government or non-governmental actor that is involved in domestic law and policy making processes.

For some of the issues discussed in this Report, the international community has already developed comprehensive principles, guidelines, standards and tools that draw on extensive research and experience. These documents are an invaluable resource for domestic decision-makers. This is true even for resources that are designed by and for international humanitarian actors, as the content of such sources is often relevant for domestic government actors. To the extent that high-quality guidance already exists in relation to a particular topic, this Report avoids ‘reinventing the wheel’. Instead, it briefly summarises key points from the guidance and recommends that domestic decision-makers refer directly to the guidance to inform law and policy making. In relation to many other issues there is, however, no such guidance. In these cases, the Report draws on the information and insights from the literature and the Desktop Reviews to provide detailed recommendations to domestic decision-makers.