Scientists & politicians urged to close ranks to contain disasters / EALA Speaker says move will check on hazards and foster climate change adaptation
ARUSHA, Tanzania, April 5, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Legislators and scientists need to close ranks and concretise collaboration in the quest to enhance Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) strategies globally, EALA Speaker, Rt. Hon Abdirahin Abdi is saying.
Such a move, the Speaker notes, is pegged at enhancing proactivity and focusing on preparedness and resilience prior to hazards, rather than placing the spotlight on the usual relief and rehabilitation coming in the face of disasters. The EALA Speaker made the remarks while addressing Parliamentarians during a panel discussion on Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable development held in Kampala, Uganda.
The Panel discussion organized jointly by United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) took place on April 3, 2012 on the sidelines of the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly. Over 70 legislators from 20 countries in the African, Asian and American continent were in attendance.
The Speaker was categorical that the drought the EAC region faced three years ago could have been ameliorated had legislators paid attention to the predictions of the climate experts.
'Had politicians at the EAC for example, listened to the scientists' predictions over the 2009 drought, we would have at least averted its devastating impact. It is now time to forget about the past or forget disagreements if any and forge the way forward”, Hon Abdi remarked, adding that EALA would continue to co-ordinate with local governments, CSOs and the academia among other stakeholders in order to boost DRR strategies.
The EALA Speaker noted that the Assembly was looking forward to enacting a specific law on DRR which would among other things, avail the much needed resources as part of the adaptation for DRR.
In East Africa, a reported 20 million people suffered from the harsh consequences of drought in 2009. Two years later, another 10 million were affected by the worst drought in East Africa and the Greater Horn of Africa region reported in over six decades.
The panel chaired by Hon (Mr.) Alex Byarugaba, MP, Uganda and the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Disaster Risk Reduction Forum of Uganda saw presentations from several parliamentarians.
Hon Saber Chowdhury, MP from Bangladesh noted that a staggering USD 5.9 billion, amounting to about 3% of the GDP was lost in Bangladesh over a nine year period (1991-2000) due to disasters with a corresponding half a million lives lost.Hon Chowdhury however noted the inculcation of early warning systems and the building of cyclone shelters as a strategy that had saved a vast majority of lives during disasters, reducing deaths and displacements by an impressive 99%.
The former Minister for State Disaster Management in Japan, Hon Yoshitaka Murata said Japan had improved its legislation, policies and disaster response systems with every subsequent disaster. Hon Murata said Japan was more responsive now following the Kobe earthquake in 1995 and a similar disaster and subsequent Tsunami that took place last year.
Panama on its part has updated institutional guidelines, standards and policies, with the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction in development plans, development of good risk reduction and sustainable use of natural resources in the private and public sectors according to Hon Ronny Arauz, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Panama.
Ms. Sanne Boswijk, the Disaster Law Delegate for Africa at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies called for legal preparedness on the part of countries to contain disasters.
'Legal preparedness is deemed vital during times of disasters for effective relief response including removing regulatory barriers and balancing between legal issues and the reality on the ground at entry points (borders and ports). With such challenges, it is important to explore together, a general Treaty on disasters,' Ms. Boswijk stated.
In her remarks, Dr (Ms) Feng Min Kan, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction urged governments to forge coherent approaches to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction by using the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015). The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) is a 10-year plan to make the world safer from natural hazards adopted by 168 Member States of the United Nations in 2005 at the World Disaster Reduction Conference
The Participants thus undertook to facilitate linkages between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation through relevant legislation and policy convergence in regional and national action plans.
In this regard, the Parliamentarians noted that the Philippines Act on Disaster Management and the Model Act on International Disaster Relief Law were good entry points and called for the sharing of best practices.
The legislators also undertook to stay the course and scale up the use of risk reduction tools as a core policy element for climate change adaptation, the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development.
Meanwhile, the IPU Assembly is expected to end in Kampala later on today.