Legarda asks politicians to get more involved in disaster risk reduction PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 28 November 2010 00:00

Asian legislators on Thursday began a three-day consultative meeting here, exchanging ‘best practices’ on their respective countries’ disaster risk reduction (DRR) schemes, apparently in consensus that risk reduction is less costly than post-disaster reconstruction.

The meeting of 15 lawmakers from the Philippines, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, and Pakistan was led by Philippine Senator Loren Legarda, designated United Nations Champion on the Environment.

The conference was organized in cooperation with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and the Asian Network of Parliamentarians for Population and Development.

The meeting’s theme is Disaster Risk Reduction: An Instrument for Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

Special guest Margareta Wahlström, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative for DRR, focused her remarks on simple truths about risk reduction being a “preventive measure like immunization is to a baby.”

She explained by saying that a country that is well-immmunized or protected from risks against disasters is a more resilient country.

Wahlström listed out the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of poverty alleviation, education for all, gender equality, health system, the environment and good governance as all inter-related factors in DRR. She noted, for example, that schools buildings should be safe and ought to be located in places not prone to floods.

Otherwise, she continued, there is no meaning to building more and more schools which pupils cannot use and are constantly being washed away and reconstructed -- thus draining limited finances.

The U.N. official called for audacious political will on governments, to include allotting a higher budget percentage to DRR.

In the forthcoming climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico, she said the U.N. will call on all countries to develop a strong regulation framework for DRR.

Unless DRR policies are in place and implemented, most countries in Asia cannot meet their MDGs within the 2015 deadline set by the United Nations, she forecast.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and Shiv Khare of the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians for Population and Development joined the meeting.

In her opening statement, Legarda, also the chairman of the Philippine Senate Committees on Foreign Relations and Climate Change, enjoined her fellow parliamentarians to assume an active role in addressing development problems that have become even more daunting.

“If there is one development issue that cuts across all other development concerns, it is disaster risk reduction. Resolving this issue is today’s most daunting task for all sectors since disasters abound and are getting bigger, deadlier and worse,” she said.

“Inequitable economic growth, population pressures and extreme climate events have connived to increase disaster risks in our midst. Poor urban governance, ecosystems decline and vulnerable rural livelihoods have also become principal sources of risk, driving disaster vulnerability and poverty, the reduction of which is foremost among the Millennium Development Goals,” she added.

She further explained that as lawmakers, they have the mandate to introduce change and to ensure that it happens by, among others, creating the enabling policy environment for effective disaster risk reduction.

Lawmakers can also urge their respective governments to develop risk reduction strategies supportive of national development agenda; and lay the foundation for increased investment in risk reduction in order to safeguard development gains.

“Our mission of reducing disaster risks should transcend political boundaries and our calls for action should echo through the challenging times ahead. Our vision of improved socio-economic standards and quality of living for our people compels to constantly renew our commitment to responsible and effective political leadership, governance, and public service and to work towards a more sustainable world and more resilient human societies for many generations to come,” Legarda concluded.

The Cambodian delegate said that her country has no specific DRR law, but such schemes are integrated in various other legislations that provide a budget for climate change mitigation.

Unlike the Philippines, Indonesia does not have a DRR law, its delegate said, but declared that five per cent of the national budget is allotted for such purposes. Indonesia is the most disaster-prone southeast Asian country.

Philippine legislator Mel Senen Sarmiento said the Philippine may take pride in its DRR legislation, that took 10 years to become law, but bewailed the low level of political will to address disaster risks.

“It’s good, however, that last year (when he was the president of the League of City Mayors of the Philippines), local government units have been allowed to use their emergency funds before a disaster happens. It used to be illegal to do that.”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 November 2010 12:43