Disaster Preparedness and Risk Reduction

Oct 26 2020 | 04:11:47
Summary Report

The Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change (CSCCC) in collaboration with the World Bank held a webinar titled “Disaster Preparedness and Risk Reduction” on 26th October, 2020. This was the third event of the Impactful Speakers Series. The panelists included Lt. General (Retd.) Nadeem Ahmed, Ms. Elif Ayhan, Mr. Hans Guttman. The event was moderator by Maj. General (Retd.) Asghar Nawaz. It was a detailed and insightful discussion which illuminated many aspects of Disaster Management and Risk Reduction systems and mechanisms within Pakistan and in the wider South Asian region.  

In her introductory remarks, the CEO of CSCCC Aisha Khan, stated that disasters are a common occurrence and the region is susceptible to a range of hydro-meteorological disasters. These disasters tend to affect people differently, depending on their vulnerabilities. Women, children and people with disabilities are more vulnerable as their coping capabilities are low. She highlighted that higher exposure to future risk can lead to loss of dignity, economic setbacks and emotional trauma. She posed questions about increasing adaptive resilience, reducing risk and viable risk financing options.

Maj. General Nawaz stated that Climate Change is a threat that is dynamic, unpredictable and Pakistan is one of the most impacted countries in the world. The effects can be seen in the extreme events across the length and breadth of the country. The Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 demonstrated the resolve of countries to offset and minimize disasters; however gaps exist betw3een intentions and actions.  General Nawaz highlighted that for developing and least developed countries, finances and lack of resources is a major hurdle towards climate action. Regional enhanced cooperation, in a non-political and unbiased manner, is the need of the hour.

The Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist at the World Bank, Ms. Elif Ayhan, spoke about the challenges and opportunities regarding risk awareness. She stressed on the fact that Pakistan will need to give climate change the highest political and administrative attention. In order to successfully work towards risk reduction and risk awareness, it is important to realize that disasters are multi-hazard and require a multi-agency approach, she reiterated. Cooperation is needed between government, communities and civil societies. She also remarked that Pakistan currently has a strong Disaster Management system in place. The National Disaster Management Authority and the establishment of the NDRMF is a unique system that needs to be utilized, she said. She also spoke about the adaptability of systems and supporting long-term risk reduction programs. Ms. Ayhan emphasized that while disasters, such as earthquakes and storms, are natural; their effects are amplified by wrong decisions, weak infrastructure and bad settlement patterns. She underlined the need for strong systems, policy legislations, coordination mechanisms and unique multi-hazard approaches.

Lt. General Nadeem Ahmed highlighted the work of NDRMF, as one of the first funds of its kind to be created in a developing country. It is one of the best policy innovations with stringent prequalification guidelines for implementing partners, he said. He also highlighted that funds for disaster response are a new concept in Pakistan as the earlier practice was to redirect funds for development as response to disasters and this would undermine Pakistan’s capacity to meet its development goals. He covered comprehensively all the concepts of catastrophe bonds, risk insurance, contingent risk financing and central fund between provinces. He emphasized on the importance of a national catastrophe model  and also underlined the importance of sustainable development and predictive management of disasters.

The Executive Director of ADPC, Mr. Hans Guttman, emphasized the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the world economy and the welfare of the vulnerable communities. However, he was of the opinion, that this also gives the world an opportunity to build back better. Despite some criticism directed at the UN Agencies, he said that it was still the best and only workable formats for global cooperation. He highlighted the challenges faced by South Asia including but not limited to, GLOFs, droughts, locust attacks, earthquakes, lack of Early Warning Systems and poor construction and development.  He talked about the potential of regional cooperation in policy regulations, supporting innovations and other formal/informal approaches for addressing some of these problems. He also emphasized the importance of coordination between communities, local/federal governments, private sector and other actors.

During the Q&A session with the audience, it was agreed that people are more willing to participate in CBDRM exercises if they have gone through a disaster. Hence, there is a need to enhance and promote advocacy programs. Pakistan’s geographic location and the importance of regional cooperation and EWS were highlighted. It was pointed out that political differences and humanitarian issue should be dealt with separately and the former should not take away from cooperation in the other. Ms. Ayhan acknowledged the linkages between environmental degradation/climate change and increased risk of gender based violence and talked about the need for advocacy and raising awareness of the subject.The commitment to NDC was reiterated and importance of adaptation and mitigation was acknowledged as key to climate control. In response to one o the questions It was stated that, as of now, Pakistan did not have a management plan to tackle climate migration and its affects could have serious consequences at different levels of societal tiers. Gen Nadeem said that climate change mitigation and disaster risk reduction fall within the purview of MOCC and NDMA respectively and as such the goals and management plans of both need to be aligned with proper resource allocation.

The need to work with civil society and use its knowledge to inform policies was highlighted. Cross sectoral integration was recommended for all development activities with focus on sustainable development. Hans Guttman said that building resilience was not just about mitigation and sustainability, but was also an issue of equality, equity, fairness, human rights and leaving no one behind. In conclusion, Maj. General Asghar Nawaz underlined that climate related disasters would keep increasing in magnitude and resource deficiency would continue to remain a problem. Hence, it is imperative to move towards innovative financing, building resilient communities, strengthening governance systems, promoting cooperation within Pakistan and in the region, and utilizing cutting edge technology. The need to be prepared at all times  to minimize damage through proactive measures for recommended as the way forward.