Moving Forward: HFA Post 2015 and SADCs Perspectives in the SASDiR Biannual Conference

November 17, 2014

By Karima Benbih, Fulbright scholar, PhD Candidate- Shelter and Settlement – Virginia Tech

The Southern African Society for Disaster Reduction (SASDiR), held its 2nd biannual conference on October 6-8, 2014 in Windhoek, Namibia.  SASDiR is a community of practice for disaster risk reduction within the regional context of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). SASDiR was officially launched in October 2010 at the Society's first biennial conference hosted by the African Centre for Disaster Studies at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa. The field of disaster risk reduction has been growing exponentially world-wide in the last 20 years. Within the SADC context, a number of civil society organisations, academic and research institutions and national governments have taken initiatives in making disaster risk reduction a policy priority. Since the declaration of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) and the Africa Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Policy and Plan of Action (ARDDRP), a number of national disaster risk reduction platforms have been established and some inter-state coordination has been taking place facilitated by the SADC Disaster Risk Reduction Unit. Yet, very little formal intra-regional linkages and cooperation exist within the SADC region which includes non-traditional disaster reduction actors. The field of disaster risk reduction covers many disciplines and many professional constituencies. This society believes that Africans have the skills, knowledge and competencies to take ownership of our shared disaster risk profile and have the know-how for finding workable African centred solutions to African pressing disaster risk issues.

SASDiR’s position paper on the Post-2015 Agenda stressed on the following points:

·         Ensuring right implementation and support  of existing DRR policies;

·         Breaking the silos of climate change adaptation, environmental sustainability and DRR agendas and considering a holistic approach for development strategies;

·         Support of DRR at the local level, by assisting local agendas, actions and initiatives;

·         Emphasis on health as a means for ensuring DRR;

·         Commitment to DRR as human right;

·         Adoption of tangible targets to monitor and measure performances;

·         Strengthening of budget allocations for DRR, and government commitment to allocate a portion to DRR; 

·         Heightening of trans-boundary DRR measures.

The biannual conference raised many interesting topic points that can be drivers moving forward in the SADC region. Amidst the complex social political systems in SADC and globally, the southern African region needs to consider strategies for disaster risk reduction on the regional, national and local levels.  For example, numbers show 350 million living in urban areas in SADC, with limited capacity of urban planning. Urbanization is overwhelmed and urban practitioners lack DRR knowledge, DRR practitioners lack urban knowledge, and smaller towns are breaking down, while bigger cities are sprawling. Addressing grim causes of urban poverty can allow DRR to move forward.

Similarly, issues of civil society involvement have been raised.  Governments lack pressure from the civil society. This entails moving governance beyond institutions but thinking about it as a process. Participants also insisted on building the role that CSOs working in DRR have in reaching the grassroots level, getting information during disasters, and bridging the gap between recovery and long term development. This means that there is a need to create a civil society that is both DRR aware and invested in development and research.

One of the key points of this conference was the exchange of experience in resilience, particularly in urban settings.  UN-HABITAT presented their DIMSUR exchange experiences in urban resilience. In brief, DIMSUR provides technical assistance and knowledge, with a special focus on urban areas, to address the needs of its Member states to reduce the vulnerability and build the resilience of communities to natural and other hazards, in alignment with the existing global Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), the African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC). DIMSUR is driven by Mozambique, Malawi, Madagascar and the Union of Comoros. The main focus areas of the centre are: targeting all five priorities of the Hyogo Framework for Action, establishing a partnership with the SADC DRR Unit, serving as platform for the discussion and interchange of good practice, establishing synergies between CCA and DRR agendas, and finally proposing innovative DRR programmes and activities.

Urban risk and research will be a permanent installment in future SASDIR conferences and anyone engaged in current research or practical work in the field is welcome to present at the conference in 2016.

More information on the society, its charter, resources, can be found at:  www.sasdir.org

 

By Karima Benbih, Fulbright scholar, PhD Candidate- Shelter and Settlement – Virginia Tech

 

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