International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDR)
“A reflection on the IDDR session in the context of the 2020 theme: implications for the South African disaster risk management system”
It is widely acknowledged that countries that develop policy, legislative frameworks, and institutional architecture and associated investment vehicles for disaster risk reduction in line with the goal, targets and priorities for action of the Sendai Framework, have a greater capacity to manage disaster risk.
The 2020 theme “it’s all about governance” is closely linked with Target E of the Sendai Framework: Substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020 which lays the foundation for the implementation of the Sendai Framework.
The IDDR provides government and society at large the opportunity to reflect on the progress made in managing the disasters that occurred and our risk reduction efforts to reduce societal vulnerability and increase our resilience to disasters. It also calls us to consider the fast-changing global and continental risks to provide us with the appropriate levels of insight to review our strategies and programmes were required to deal with this change.
Global Risk Context
The current COVID-19 disaster demonstrates that which was outlined in the Global Assessment on Risk 2019 which states that: “risk is systemic, and crises are cascading. Disasters are rapidly producing further disaster to become more complex and deadly.” This means that we should all worry about the knock-on effects of Covid-19 in the realisation of sustainable development goals globally.
COVID-19 has proven to be both a health pandemic that is killing thousands and a socio-economic crisis that is threatening the welfare of millions globally. Simply put, it is a development challenge of our time. Even before we bring the COVID-19 disaster under control, we will all be demanding: “Never again.” We can never go back to business as usual.
Everyone is affected, but not everyone is affected equally. The elderly, people living with disabilities, the poor and marginalised are most vulnerable. The only solution lies in prevention and building resilience of our nation and communities.
The recently published 2020 Global Risk Report highlights that for the first time in the history of the Global Risks Perception Survey, environmental concerns dominate the top long-term risks by likelihood among members of the World Economic Forum’s multi-stakeholder community. Failure of “climate change mitigation and adaption” is the number one risk by impact and number two by likelihood over the next 10 years, according to the survey. Another key concern, especially amongst the younger generation, is biodiversity loss which has critical implications for humanity, from the collapse of food and health systems to the disruption of entire supply chains.
Climate change is striking harder and more rapidly than many expected. The last five years are on track to be the warmest on record, natural disasters are becoming more intense and more frequent, and last year witnessed unprecedented extreme weather throughout the world, including South Africa where we have experienced severe drought in some parts of the country and also storms and severe weather events in other parts.
The Global Risk Report also reflects on how changes in societal, environmental, demographic and technological patterns have impacted on health systems. The report posits that progress made in the management of pandemics is also being undermined by societal vaccine hesitancy and drug resistance, making it increasingly difficult to land the final blow against some of humanity’s biggest killers such as Tuberculosis, Malaria, Measles, Yellow Fever, Chicken Pox etc. The emergence of novel viruses, such as the Coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, which undoubtedly will have a significant impact the world over, cements a conclusion that as existing health risks resurge and new ones emerge, our past successes in overcoming health challenges are no guarantee of future results unless governments and societies work better together to implement programmes aimed at increasing resilience and decreasing vulnerability to health-related risks.
The 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR)
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the promise of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] as well as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction:2015-2030 (SFDRR) more relevant and vital than ever.
The crisis is a stark reminder that any recovery that fails to address the causes of our present vulnerabilities condemns us to more acute crises in the future.
The goal of the SFDRR is to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risk through the implementation of integrated and inclusive economic, structural, legal, social, health, cultural, educational, environmental, technological, political and institutional measures that prevent and reduce hazard exposure and vulnerability to disaster, increase preparedness for response and recovery, and thus strengthen resilience.
This is the trajectory which South Africa needs to pursue vigorously in order to ensure comprehensive recovery from the impact of Covid-19. “Building back better” in the recovery is absolutely necessary –we need to build more resilient health systems, economies, and more just societies.
The implementation of the SFDRR is premised on both saving lives and reducing disaster losses whilst improving the management of disaster risks. The SFDRR underscores the importance of mainstreaming DRR within sustainable development to ensure that it becomes “everybody’s business”.
The SFDRR has an important role in the implementation and achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and vice versa. Both have the capacity to shape public and private sector efforts and build partnerships to address the underlying drivers of risk and future levels of risk and resilience if the implementation is concerted.
Governance and Service Delivery
In considering the important area of governance, government is acutely aware of two structural challenges that hamper service and programme delivery, particularly at local government level. The first challenge is the inefficient silo and disjointed functions between national, provincial and local government which have resulted, among other factors, in inadequate responses to service delivery challenges, slow reactions to environmental emergencies (like drought, floods) and the collapse, in some areas, of basic municipal infrastructure services. The second challenge is the growing social distance between citizens and communities and their public institutions and civil service. The outcomes of this distance, between public representatives and communities, is evident in increasing service delivery protests that sometimes result, or mushroom, in malicious infrastructure destruction.
In an effort to address some of these challenges, the District Development Model (DDM) was developed and launched to improve the coherence and impact of government service delivery with a focus on the 44 Districts and 8 Metros around the country as development spaces that can be used as centres of service delivery and economic development. Under the DDM all three spheres of government coordinate and integrate development plans and budgets and mobilise the capacity and resources of government and civil society, including business, labour and community, in pursuit of inclusive growth and job creation. We need to mobilise communities and sectors across the spheres of government to identify and implement local solutions to cope with the crisis now and build resilience for tomorrow.
“More dedicated action needs to be focused on tackling underlying disaster risk drivers, such as the consequences of poverty and inequality, climate change and variability, unplanned and rapid urbanization, poor land management and compounding factors, such as demographic change, weak institutional arrangements, non-risk-informed policies, lack of regulation and incentives for private disaster risk reduction investment, complex supply chains, limited availability of technology, unsustainable uses of natural resources, declining ecosystems, pandemics and epidemics” (UNISDR, 2015).
The commitment to disaster risk reduction should also be addressed with a renewed sense of urgency in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and integrated into policies, plans, programmes and budgets at all levels. There is a need to further explore the institutional mechanisms to deal with disaster risks and disastrous events across organs of state.
We are currently exploring options for the institutional enhancement and operational efficiency of the disaster management system in South Africa which need to address the corporate form as well as the location of the disaster management function within government structures. The identified institutional solution is also expected to generate at least three other benefits:
- Improving governance.
- Building an improved and sustainable internal capacity in the design and delivery of disaster management initiatives that will improve the coherence and overall quality of the disaster management efforts.
iii. Ensuring that the responsibility and accountability for the disaster management function and the coordination thereof, is appropriately located in the centre of government.
Disaster Management Planning and the DISTRICT ONE PLAN
The Disaster Management Act, 2002 in sections 25, 38, 39, 52 and 53 places an explicit responsibility on organs of state in the national provincial and local sphere to develop and implement a Disaster Management Plan (DMP) and submit such to the NDMC (amongst others). These plans and their implementation should encompass strategies to prevent and reduce the risk of disasters; mitigate the severity or consequences of disasters; facilitate emergency preparedness; ensure rapid and effective response to disasters and post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation. Apart from putting measures in place to deal with the above, a DMP provides important considerations for development planning in a municipality. These include conducting a disaster risk assessment, identifying and mapping risks, areas, ecosystems, communities and households that are exposed or vulnerable to physical and human-induced threats and providing measures and indicate how organs of state will invest in DRR and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA), including ecosystem and community-based adaptation approaches.
It is also acknowledged that disaster risk and its relation to sustainable development is often not identified, assessed and communicated adequately to all stakeholders. In the context of the “District One Plan,” it is therefore of utmost importance to coordinate and align the implementation of the DMP of the district/ metro with those of other organs of state and institutional role-players. In our quest to protect communities at risk and build resilient communities, the NDMC (supported by DCoG DDM Provincial Teams) will focus its intervention and support to ensure that municipalities have integrated DMPs and that there is adequate considerations of disaster risks in sector plans.
Against this background, the role of the NDMC in the DDM is to work with stakeholders across the spheres of government and other role players to promote the implementation of disaster management programmes in each of the 44 DMs and 8 Metro’s, that seek to:
- Reduce disaster risks including those associated with climate change;
- Prevent the development of new disaster risk;
- Enhance preparedness and mitigation;
- Build resilience of communities,
- Ensure quick response and recovery; and
- implement reconstruction aimed at ‘building-back-better’.
The DDM provides an opportunity for integration of these concepts through the development and implementation of the “District One Plan.”
Regional and International collaboration
Today’s risk landscape is being shaped in significant measure by an unsettled geopolitical environment—one in which new centres of power and influence are forming—as old alliance structures and global institutions are being tested. While these changes can create openings for new partnership structures, in the immediate term, they are putting stress on systems of coordination and challenging norms around shared responsibility. Unless stakeholders adapt multilateral mechanisms for this turbulent period, the risks that were once on the horizon will continue to arrive.
Given that disaster risk knows no boundaries, in line with priority 7 of the MTSF (A better Africa and World) we are working with the SADC structures to promote, deepen integration, coordinate and expand delivery on disaster management. In this regard, SADC have established a committee of Ministers to reflect on amongst others the implementation of decisions; the regional preparedness and response strategy 2016 – 2030; a SADC green climate fund; report on the implementation of the climate change strategy and action plan; report on the challenges and recommendations in terms of climate-related disasters; and on the integration of the SFDRR in the SADC programmes.
By taking this approach both within the Country and working within SADC, disaster management is mainstreamed in and across the spheres of government and the region which not only improves the likelihood of achieving our goals to reduce risk, increasing resilience and reducing vulnerability but also in improving our ability to respond to disasters more effectively when they do occur.
Coordinated, multi-stakeholder action is needed quickly to mitigate against the worst outcomes and build resiliency across communities and businesses.
In conclusion, we need to work collectively across the spheres of government and sectors of society in pursuing the three key ideas which are central to the Sendai Framework:
- A greater effort to understand risk (in all its dimensions), so we can prioritise investment, make better risk-informed decisions, and build resilience into everyday processes.
- A shift of focus from managing disasters to managing risk, including to reduce the underlying drivers of risk (exposure and vulnerability).
- A broader whole-of-society approach to risk – everyone has a role in reducing and managing risk.
Disasters are preventable and risk can be eliminated. Concerted, collaborative, and strategic efforts by all stakeholders in a coordinated manner and all sectors of society reduce disaster vulnerability and build disaster resilience at all levels –it’s all about governance.