News Column

UNDP and IFRC Warn of Legal Gaps in Disaster Risk Management

June 27, 2014



There is an urgent need for governments to establish stronger laws that protect at-risk communities from the threats posed by disasters, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Societies (IFRC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

A new report, Effective law and regulation for disaster risk reduction, released by both organizations today calls for the international community to place a greater priority on implementing existing legislation and drafting new legislation to protect people from disasters. Especially important is to ensure that local authorities are equipped with necessary skills and resources to implement the laws.

"The dedicated national disaster management acts we find in many countries are positive developments - but they are only one entry point for strengthening disaster risk reduction," said Angelika Planitz, UNDP's Disaster and Governance Advisor at the release of the report in New York, where representatives of Mexico, Switzerland, IFRC, Oxfam and UNDP, also emphasized the necessity of strong legal frameworks in support of disaster risk management.

"However, sectoral laws and regulations, such as building codes, land use and development planning laws, as well as environmental management and climate change laws, are just as - if not more - important pillars of reducing disaster risks, because they address the underlying causes of disasters that are linked to unsustainable development practices."

"Over the last twenty years, and particularly since the launch of the Hyogo Framework for Action in 2005, there has been very good progress, with dozens of countries enacting more modern legislation on disaster risk management, says David Fisher, Coordinator of the IFRC Disaster law Programme. "But our study shows that, in many countries, laws on disaster risk reduction are still too vague to be fully effective, especially when it comes to funding and community participation. We are particularly worried that, in some instances, legal frameworks do not clearly explain how to promote the safety of people living without legal title to their land in urban slums, even though they are most at risk."

Globally, disasters have had a devastating impact on countries and communities, with more than 1.3 million people killed and nearly 5 billion affected in the last 20-years. It is estimated that disasters have cost the global economy at least US$ 2 trillion in economic losses and this number may be as much as 50 per cent higher if informal markets are included. It is evident therefore, that disasters pose a significant threat to lives, livelihoods and sustainable development.

Effective law and regulation for disaster risk reduction, is an in-depth study of disaster risk reduction legislation in 31 countries worldwide.

The joint launch event in New York was co-sponsored by the Government of Switzerland and held on the side-lines of the annual ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment. A simultaneous launch took place in Bangkok.

The report and related country studies are available at www.drr-law.org.


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Source: AllAfrica