Legislators and scientists need to close ranks and collaborate in the quest to enhance disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies globally, according to East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Speaker Abdirahin Abdi.
Such a move, the Speaker noted, would enhance proactivity and focuse on preparedness and resilience prior to hazards, rather than placing the spotlight on the usual relief and rehabilitation efforts coming in the wake of disasters.
The EALA Speaker made the remarks when addressing parliamentarians during a panel discussion on Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable development held in Kampala, Uganda.
The panel discussion, which was organized jointly by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), took place recently on the sidelines of the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly.
Over 70 legislators from 20 countries in the African, Asian and American continents were in attendance.
The Speaker was categorical that drought the EAC region faced three years ago could have been ameliorated had legislators paid attention to the predictions of climate experts.
"Had politicians at the EAC, for example, listened to the scientists’ predictions over the 2009 drought, we could have at least averted its devastating impact. It is now time to forget about the past or forget disagreements, if any, and forge the way forward,” Abdi remarked, adding that EALA would continue to co-ordinate with local governments, CSOs and the academia, among other stakeholders, in order to boost DRR strategies.
The EALA Speaker noted that the Assembly was looking forward to enacting a specific law on DRR, which would avail the much needed resources as part of the adaptation for DRR.
In East Africa, a reported 20 million people suffered from the harsh consequences of drought in 2009. Two years later, another 10 million were affected by the worst drought in the region and the Greater Horn of Africa region reported in over six decades.
The panel, which was chaired by Alex Byarugaba, an MP from Uganda and the chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Disaster Risk Reduction Forum of Uganda, saw presentations from several parliamentarians.
Saber Chowdhury, an MP from Bangladesh, noted that a staggering USD 5.9 billion, amounting to about 3 per cent of the GDP, was lost in Bangladesh over a nine-year period (1991-2000) due to disasters, with a corresponding half a million lives lost.
He noted however the inculcation of early warning systems and the building of cyclone shelters as a strategy that had saved many lives during disasters, reducing deaths and displacements by an impressive 99 per cent.
Former Minister for State Disaster Management in Japan Yoshitaka Murata said Japan had improved its legislation, policies and disaster response systems with every subsequent disaster.
Murata said Japan was more responsive now following the Kobe earthquake in 1995 and a similar disaster and subsequent tsunami that took place last year.
Panama, on its part, had updated institutional guidelines, standards and policies with the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction in development plans, development of good risk reduction and sustainable use of natural resources in the private and public sectors, according to Ronny Arauz,
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Panama.
Sanne Boswijk, the Disaster Law delegate for Africa at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, called for legal preparedness on the part of countries to contain disasters.
“Legal preparedness is deemed vital during times of disasters for effective relief response, including removing regulatory barriers and balancing between legal issues and the reality on the ground at entry points (borders and ports). With such challenges, it is important to explore together, a generaltTreaty on disasters,” Boswijk stated.
In her remarks, Dr. Feng Min Kan, special advisor to the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, urged governments to forge coherent approaches to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction by using the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015). The Hyogo Framework for
Action (HFA) is a 10-year plan to make the world safer from natural hazards adopted by 168 member states of the United Nations in 2005 at the World Disaster Reduction Conference.