The sixth session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GP2019) is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland from 13 to 17 May 2019. This important gathering is held under the theme – “Resilience Dividend: Towards Sustainable and Inclusive Societies”. The Republic of South Africa is represented at the GP2019 by a delegation led by Dr Mmaphaka Tau, the Head of National Disaster Management Center (NDMC) which reports to the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Dr Zweli Mkhize.
The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, is recognised by the UN General Assembly as the main forum at global level for strategic advice, coordination, partnership development and the review of progress in the implementation of international instruments on disaster risk reduction. This Global Platform has been held every two years since 2007 to discuss progress and challenges in reducing disaster losses and managing disaster risk in relation to natural and human-made hazards: both new and existing. In addition, this platform is also a critical component of the monitoring and implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
The GP2019 is focusing on a people-centred, resilience-driven approach to disaster risk reduction: “ensuring that our investment in a quest for a better future includes the most vulnerable as initiators of, rather than recipients of change, and realises benefits beyond merely preventing and reducing disaster risk”. Ensuring the resilience dividend means risk reduction must also result in climate change gains, the promotion and protection of basic human rights, the extension of social justice to the most vulnerable and the growth of good governance to protect sustainable development.
The platform presents an important opportunity for the disaster risk reduction experts and practitioners, policy makers, government officials and other stakeholders to debate and discuss how to reduce disaster impact, boost the implementation of the Sendai Framework, the related goals of the 2030 Agenda, and the commitments of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It will also contribute to the discussions of the contribution into the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development to be held in New York in July 2019, as well as the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September 2019. This stems from the fact that the 2030 Agenda provides an excellent basis to address disaster risk and resilience building in a coherent way. Since the deadline for achieving Target (E) of the Sendai Framework: “to substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020”, is fast approaching, this platform is important as it is the last global gathering for all stakeholders before 2020. It is important to remember key innovations in the Sendai Framework which include the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries. Built around seven global targets, thirteen guiding principles and four priority areas, the Sendai Framework explicitly acts to reduce existing risk, prevent the creation of new risk and strengthening resilience.
Speaking from the GP2019 in Geneva, Dr Tau emphasised that the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which is our roadmap for change, should serve as an instructive trans-disciplinary guide for development policy, planning and practices and has therefore called on all sectors, levels, disciplines and communities to be equal to the task through the adoption of risk informed service delivery and development.
Looking at the challenges that continue to besiege the world, closely collaborating with each other, among and within countries, with civil society organisations, academia and in particular with the private sector will assist to ensure impact in strategies to address disaster risks. South Africa continues to engage stakeholders across multiple sectors towards the enhancement of systems to adequately record and report disaster losses.
The GP2019 has called for continued significant reduction in loss of life from all types of disasters like storms and floods as it was the case in Mozambique due to better preparedness and improvements to early warning systems.
Evidently, South Africa is already exposed to the devastating impacts of weather-induced natural hazards which denotes the significant effect of climate change a variability. These wide range of hazards, includes drought, fires, floods, pest and diseases, cyclones and severe storms that often trigger widespread hardship and devastation which threaten livelihoods, increase vulnerability and undermine hard-earned development gains.
Over the past three years, South Africa has been battling against the effects of the worst drought ever recorded since 1926 and recently the devastating floods that took about 86 lives.
The GP2019 was informed that South Africa is putting measures in place to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and disasters, and to realise the opportunities associated with the rising incidence and costs of disasters, the current and anticipated impacts of climate change, and the protection of critical ecosystem services and natural resources.
On the other hand, disaster management legislative and policy frameworks in South Africa align well with the objectives of the SFDRR. For instance, the need to address potential climate change risks has already been introduced in our legislation as a specific target for planning and implementation. Thus far, strides with the provision in recent legislative amendments, to expand existing national institutional structure (the National Disaster Management Advisory Forum) to serve as the SA National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction thereby emphasising the multi sectorial nature of disaster risk reduction and the responsibility of stakeholders to take collaborative action has been made. Thus far, the country has observed areas requiring improvement as being risk quantification, risk reduction through compliance with municipal bylaws, funding for risk reduction and recording of disaster losses.
The South African Government has put measures in place to support communities affected by disasters through disaster relief and recovery grant funding to address immediate needs as well as long-term intervention measures to enable proper planning and “building-back better.”
South Africa allocated R3.2 billion for drought and flood damages in various provinces and R65million was also made available to implement Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) measures within the agricultural sector in addition to other multi sectoral programmes.
There are ongoing efforts to mainstream disaster risk reduction across multiple sectors and South Africa is working towards inclusive implementation of the Sendai Framework through broad-based integrative measures such as the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF).
Accordingly, South Africa is committed to accelerating the implementation of risk informed sustainable development through focused and inclusive programmes across the spheres of government to ensure that we “leave no one behind.”
From the inputs at the GP2019, it was clear that indeed, investing in disaster risk reduction pays huge dividends in creating resilient societies aspired by the country’s blueprint for development: the National Development Plan (NDP).
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