Regional Disaster Response Advisor for Asia
The Indian Ocean tsunami saw the international community, governments in the region and military forces work together on the humanitarian response in an unprecedented way. The coming decade’s disaster risk reduction strategy was formulated through the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) adopted by the World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) three weeks after the tsunami. The RDRA Kobe had been actively involved in preparing for the conference, and played an important role as the focal point in the region for following up on the HFA. Just as the world was about to shift its attention to the recovery and rehabilitation phase of the tsunami, the South Asia earthquake took place, with similar devastation but very different features. These major disasters provided a strategic impetus for the establishment and development of natural disaster preparedness schemes in the Asia and Pacific region.
OCHA in 2005 set out plans for the Regional Disaster Response Advisor for Asia. However, in early 2005, in response to the need for more comprehensive coverage of the region, OCHA established the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok. As a result, the office of the RDRA Kobe focused its activities on East Asia, forming an integral part of the regional office in Bangkok.
- Respond quickly and appropriately to disasters by leading or supporting UNDAC and other OCHA
- Support the inter-agency effort to build UN capacity at the country level to manage disasters in cooperation with RCs and UNCTs
- Build effective working relationships with national and regional partners in disaster management and provide assistance directly
- Continue to promote the integrated disaster risk management approach with key stakeholders in the region
- Follow up on initiatives proposed at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction
The RDRA in Kobe was deployed and took joint leadership of the UNDAC team in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami and South Asia earthquake, as well as supporting the RC/HC in Thailand. The office also took part in UNDAC missions to the Philippines and Mongolia, to assess the state of disaster preparedness in both countries, and formulated a series of recommendations for improvements ranging from policy review, managerial and technical improvements to operational procedures, including how to ensure a better integration between national and international relief response.
The office played an active role in preparing for and organising the World Conference on Disaster Reduction. The concept of Total Disaster Risk Management, a holistic approach to disaster risk reduction and response, promoted by the office with the Asian Disaster Reduction Centre (ADRC) and other regional partners, was incorporated in the HFA.
The office provided the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Committee for Disaster Management (ACDM) with technical inputs to support regional activities on regional disaster management and emergency response. OCHA helping to link the ACDM to the existing international humanitarian response systems, such as the UNDAC and INSARAG.
Together with ADRC, the RDRA supported the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), a network of disaster management NGOs in the region, in developing its website and organizing workshops to strength the capacity of member NGOs. This involved them sharing their experiences of the tsunami response and exploring opportunities for joint activities in disaster-hit areas.
The office of the RDRA strengthened the ADRRN through its support and advice, and provided technical support to ACDM to promote a more integrated approach to response and response preparedness in the region.
Following up on the WCDR the office and other partners launched the International Recovery Platform (IRP), which aims to function as an international repository of knowledge and a clearinghouse for recovery activities. The IRP focuses on mapping best practices and lessons learned on recovery processes following major natural disasters and to disseminating this knowledge to governments.
During the deployment of six UNDAC missions over four months in responding to the tsunami, RC/HCs and UNCTs benefited from the office’s coordination activities and technical support. The RDRA was a key resource in the region, leading the mission in Phuket, Thailand and coordinating disaster response as the interim head of the Regional Office in Bangkok.
Recommendations that emerged from the UNDAC Preparedness Missions to the Philippines and Mongolia helped identify how the governments, RCs and UNCTs can improve national disaster response capacity. The recommendations have been instrumental in clarifying priorities for improvement of existing national disaster management capacities and identifying how the UNCT and individual UN Agencies and donors can better support national efforts.