Asian parliamentarians are applying disaster risk reduction to achieve MDG
By Jason de Asis

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, November 28, 2010-The parliamentarians who came from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, and Thailand met for three days (November 25 to 27, 2010) in the Consultative Meeting for Parliamentarians on ‘Disaster Risk Reduction: An Instrument for Achieving the Millennium Development Goals’ which was held in cooperation with the Philippine Senate, Asian Forum for Parliamentarians on Population and Development and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Response (UNISDR) here.

The Asian consultative meeting is intended to sustain the gains and advances the initiatives of parliamentarians in advocating disaster risk reduction towards more sustainable socio-economic development in the region and to highlight the roles of parliamentarians and the priorities of government in making the needed changes happen to eliminate disaster risk, which unlike hazards are neither inevitable nor natural.

The parliamentarian considered the state of disaster risk in the world is worsening, especially in Asia, severely affecting the poor and the most vulnerable, eroding economic development gains and rapidly increasing the socio-economic vulnerability of developing countries, disasters impact directly on the lives and livelihoods of the people and the communities, pose a significant challenge to the realization of sustainable and equitable growth and development in Asia, and make more difficult the efforts of national governments in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

Disaster risk is driven and made worse by climate change, poverty, gender inequity, poor governance and corruption, weak institutions, ecosystems decline, vulnerable rural livelihoods, vulnerable infrastructure, rapid urbanization, population pressures, inequitable economic growth, and unsustainable development policies, strategies and practices, among other factors.

The developing world is calling for climate justice due to the historical responsibility of industrialized countries in increasing disaster risk and their moral obligation to financially and technologically assist developing countries in their disaster risk reduction efforts.

They also discussed that the disasters are preventable and risk can be eliminated. Collaborative and strategic efforts by all stakeholders and in all sectors of society reduce disaster vulnerability and build disaster resilience at all levels. Disaster risk reduction is their first line of defense against climate change and an effective strategy for promoting climate change adaptation at the local, national and international levels by mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in all development efforts.

The political commitment of national governments to advance disaster risk reduction, as manifested in outcomes, is high and sustained momentum for action in the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held biannually since the World Conference on Disaster Reduction of 2005.
Since the Manila Call for Action of Parliamentarians of 2008, parliamentarians from all the regions of the world have met and amplified the Call, resulting in more parliamentarians appreciating the importance of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation which are relevant to laws passed in certain countries, and an advocacy kit for parliamentarians jointly published by UNISDR and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

They also recognized disaster risk reduction is a shared responsibility of all, in which they have an important leadership mandate and a moral duty to create enabling policy environments to introduce effective approaches for disaster-resilient development, and to ensure that the needed changes do occur, adding that they have a duty to their people to exercise their oversight function in national policy development and implementation and to ensure the transparent and effective use of public funds.

Disaster risk reduction is clearly more cost-effective than disaster relief and recovery and there’s a need to increase the awareness and understanding by all parliamentarians of the importance of disaster risk reduction in protecting the people and hasten development.

There is a need to elevate national and global aspirations in addressing disaster risk from mere reduction towards elimination, and to promote disaster prevention with zero tolerance approach to disaster losses as a mindset and approach for all levels in development action, noting that there’s a need to re-evaluate existing development models and in so doing consider the socio-economic standards and quality life of the people towards a sustainable and equitable world and a disaster resilient human society for future generations.

The parliamentarians pledged to deepen understanding of the linkages of disaster risk reduction with development issues such as climate change, poverty, gender, education, public health, maternal and child care, environment, infrastructure, among other issues, and translate them to practical actions, to demonstrate responsible and effective political leadership, governance, and public service, and to be agents of change and to transcend political boundaries in advancing disaster risk reduction and fostering synergies with climate change adaptation for achieving the MDGs.

The parliamentarians call on the national governments to adapt a national strategy and put in place the requisite institutional frameworks and arrangements that mainstream disaster risk reduction into development policies, programs and practices, to allocate resources from costly disaster relief and recovery activities to cost-effective disaster risk reduction measures for sustainable development.

Also to allocate at least 1% of the national budget and development funding at the national and local levels for reducing disaster risk, to enhance political commitment to disaster risk reduction and to translate this into development investments and resource sharing at the regional level and to introduce disaster risk reduction in the basic education systems, local and national government programs including the youth.

The parliamentarians commit to pursue their plan of action at the national, regional and international level. Under the national level, they will hold parliamentary briefing on the Manila Call for Action of Parliamentarians of 2010, adding that they will promote parliamentary discussions on disaster risk reduction towards the elimination of risk.

Through closer collaboration with UNISDR they will enhance the knowledge and capacity of parliamentarians in disaster risk reduction through forums for sharing knowledge, information, and best practices of countries.

They will also form a parliamentary committee or a working group and a coalition of parliamentarians for disaster risk reduction, and interact more effectively with the executive branch of government.

They will likewise conduct public hearings on disaster risk reduction-related development issues and encourage public awareness through mass media campaigns, to facilitate country-specific cost-benefit analyses on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, to identify, interact with, and engage stakeholders, including national and local governments, political parties, civil society, media, and youth organizations, to lobby for an increase in national investment in disaster risk reduction, and to facilitate direct access to international funds intended for climate change adaptation and for reducing climate-related risk, to promote legislation that allocates adequate national budget for disaster risk reduction in each development sector, and to engage in the discourse on evaluating development towards global sustainability.

At the regional and international levels, they requested UNISDR to be the focal point in facilitating parliamentary dialogues and interactions on disaster risk reduction and related issues.

They should collaborate with the Inter PU and the UNISDR to translate the Advocacy Kit for Parliamentarians on Disaster Risk Reduction as an Instrument for Achieving the Millennium Development Goals into national languages and to document good practices; use existing avenues and networks, such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Parliamentary Network on the World Bank (PNOWB), Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and Global Platform on Disaster Reduction, to foster regional and international dialogues on disaster risk reduction among parliamentarians; encourage the creation of a working group on disaster risk reduction in the IPU and calls on international donors and financial institutions to support innovative financing mechanisms such as debt-swaps for preventive disaster risk reduction measures excluding the use of such mechanisms for disaster relief.

The Asian parliamentarians unanimously adopted their plans yesterday. (Jason de Asis)