The law and natural disasters

Are disasters caused by nature preventable? Can our professionals in meteorology determine when a hurricane will strike, when a tsunami will arrive or when the winds or the sun will be harsh? If they can tell, is there a way, the government, through the law, can ensure that the inhabitants of these commonly affected areas are kept safe?

Natural calamities have a number of effects on a nation:

They threaten the existence of humanity. Do you know that a tsunami can wipe out an entire province? In areas where this usually happens, there is always unprecedented loss of life, destruction of property, destruction of sources of livelihoods (work places and garden), destruction of homes, displacement of people and many other effects.

In the aftermath of a tsunami, there is wide spread of diseases, especially water borne diseases, a huge refugee influx, a strain on the economy, and a general increase in human insecurity.

It is impossible to have sustainable development in an area that is prone to natural hazards.

According to the 346 disasters were reported; 22,773 people died; 98.6 million people were affected and the damage done was valued at US $ 66.5 million.

See particularized statistics here

The role of the law

No doubt, a lot more can be done to ensure that people are safe when these disasters caused by nature happen. Laws aimed at reducing risk can be passed; bodies to ensure the reduction of risk happens can be established. Generally, the law serves as a basis of ensuring that resilience against the hazards brought about by nature is solidified.

In 2005, the 168 UN member states adopted the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters (HFA); thereby acknowledging the role of legal frameworks in disaster risk reduction and disaster risk management. The HFA is further promoted in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (Sendai Framework).

In the Sendai Framework, the requirement to strengthen disaster risk governance and to manage disaster risk is stated as one of the four priority action points.

The best way to strengthen disaster risk governance is by making laws or improving on the existing laws and regulations, and their implementation.

The HFA provides an insight into how countries can adopt laws for disaster risk management and disaster risk reduction. However, not all remedies prescribed work for each country. Experts must be involved to assess the ability of a prescribed remedy to work for a given country.

No doubt, lessons can be learnt from other countries which have implemented laws regarding disaster risk management and disaster risk reduction. There may even be challenges in implementing these laws, but we must of course start from somewhere. We must have laws in place, and institutions established.

In 2012, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) embarked on a joint initiative, Effective law and regulation for disaster risk reduction: a multi-country report (launched in June 2014) aimed at supporting the strengthening of domestic legislation for disaster risk reduction (DRR) which among other things featured a ten point checklist on law and disaster risk reduction.

What is the relevance of the ten point checklist?

It should be noted from the outset that the checklist does not particularly address disaster preparedness, response or recovery, but it is purely for the purpose of ensuring that risk reduction and resilience are integrated into and supported by legal systems.

So, when should the checklist be used?
  1. When determining next steps for the implementation of the Sendai Framework?
  2. When embarking on a review of existing laws, plans and policies in the aftermath of a disaster
  3. Following the adoption of a new policy or strategy that aims to make disaster risk reduction a national priority
  4. Prior to drafting a new law or policy for disaster risk management
  5. When reviewing legislation for environmental management, natural resource/water/forest management and climate change
  6. As an initiative of a National Disaster Risk Reduction Platform to increase dialogue and multi-stakeholder engagement

For the next five days, we are going to discuss two points off that checklist. So, tomorrow, it will be points one and two on the checklist. It is our hope that our governments will consider enacting legislation based on that checklist to reduce the negative effects of these risks.



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