Asia Pacific: A Guide for disaster managers
Disaster management is evolving in Asia and the Pacific. Governments in the region are making it clear that they want the response to emergencies within their borders to be led by them, with greater assistance from neighbouring countries. For the United Nations and its humanitarian organizations, such as OCHA, this has meant a change in the way we approach Governments on disaster response.
In 2012 the focus has been on supporting Governments in managing disaster response and preparedness, including the management of international assistance. When the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, was in the region for last year’s Humanitarian Partnership Meeting in Shanghai, the idea of a handbook for Member States was agreed. This ”Guide” should inform Governments and other disaster managers about regional and international disaster response tools and services.
The handbook, titled The Guide for Disaster Managers in Asia-Pacific, will explain how Governments can ask for targeted support and how they can ensure that this support meets their requirements. Between 5 and 9 November, close to seventy humanitarian and disaster management professionals from the Asia-Pacific region gathered in Bangkok to discuss the information that should be included in the publication. The workshop included representatives from as far as Afghanistan, Fiji, Mongolia and Australia.
"This guide will help us access regional and international assistance and build our capacity to effectively respond to disasters," said Mohammed Sayed Qazi, Director of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority.
The breadth of humanitarian issues facing the region is daunting. They include floods, typhoons, earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, droughts, dzuds, conflicts, political instability and pandemics, all of which often have dire humanitarian consequences.
Last year, the Philippines suffered the most disasters in the region. Rosaria Cabrera is the Regional Director of the Office of Civil Defence and the Chairperson of the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council in the Philippines. She explained that it can be challenging for Governments to understand what they should ask for:
"We accessed a number of international tools and services during disasters such as Tropical Cyclone Washi in 2011, but this workshop has allowed us to share information and ideas, and to gain a full understanding of what tools and services are available to support us."
Legal issues are often invisible in emergencies, but effective disaster response laws underpin the efficiency of emergency responders and the success of recovery efforts. The International Federation of the Red Cross says laws can save lives, with legal preparedness working in the interest of Governments. Many countries in the Asia-Pacific region have taken steps towards ensuring their laws support effective disaster response. Including references to what is available in terms of legal support in the Guide will further assist this process.
Romano Lasker, Regional Partnerships Officer, is overseeing the development of the guide for the OCHA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. He explains:
“By enhancing the capacity of Governments and their partners to understand when and how to locate humanitarian technical expertise and support, such as United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination teams, Governments can facilitate life-saving and effective disaster response efforts. The guide will encourage disaster managers to use many other international tools available prior to a natural calamity in order to address gaps in disaster response preparedness.”
The Guide for Disaster Managers in Asia Pacific will be available in early 2013. An online version will follow.