Effective Law & Regulation for Disaster Risk Reduction

Submitted by Michael Rastall | published 24th Jun 2014 | last updated 17th Mar 2020
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Introduction

Over the past 20 years, disasters due to natural hazards have affected 4.4 billion people, claimed 1.3 million lives and caused 2 trillion USD in economic losses 1. These disasters not only brought death and destruction, they did so disproportionately to the poor and marginalized. Disasters have become one of the main threats to sustainable development on a global scale, yet they are preventable.

Today, it is well accepted that the actions and decisions of individuals, communities and nations make a significant difference as to whether or not a natural hazard turns into a disaster. Choices made with the aim of reducing the human impact of natural hazards can be described as disaster risk reduction (DRR), in the broadest sense 2. There is widespread agreement that legal frameworks are a critical tool for governments to shape these choices, both for themselves and for others. This was recognized by 168 UN Member States in 2005 when they adopted the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters (HFA), and remains so today, as states and other stakeholders discuss its successor agreement.

However, some DRR experts and activists have expressed doubts and disappointment with the legislative route, arguing that the many new laws and policies that have been developed to address DRR seem not to have made the difference they promised, citing in particular gaps in implementation at the community level. Numerous reports relating to HFA implementation have also indicated slow progress in reducing disaster risk at the community level, and a lack of clear information and analysis on the role of legislation.

With this in mind, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have collaborated on a multi-country report to assess legal frameworks for DRR in 31 countries. The purpose of this report is to support legislators, public administrators, and DRR and development practitioners and advocates to prepare and implement effective legal frameworks for disaster risk management (DRM) that are adapted to their own country’s needs, drawing on examples and experience from other countries. Its four objectives are to:

  • present examples of DRR legal provisions from different country contexts and legal systems as a resource for DRM practitioners and legislators;
  • identify factors that have supported or hindered the implementation of DRR as a priority within DRM laws and selected sectoral laws;
  • make recommendations for legislators, practitioners and policy makers engaged in reviewing or drafting DRM laws and selected sectoral laws;
  • provide an analytical framework against which different DRM laws and selected sectoral laws can be assessed at the country level in terms of effective support for DRR.

The report has examined aspects of different countries’ legislation according to how they address relevant themes in the HFA, as well as issues identified by state parties and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in a 2011 International Conference resolution 3. This summary report provides a synopsis of the main findings and recommendations of the multi- country report, as well as the individual country case studies and legal desk reviews on which it draws.

The report finds that in order to support a whole-of-society approach, legal frameworks for DRR should include institutional mandates, allocate dedicated resources, facilitate the participation of communities, civil society and vulnerable groups, and establish the responsibility and accountability of relevant actors. Effective frameworks facilitate the mainstreaming of DRR into relevant sectors, are sustainable within the available resources and capacity of government at national and local levels, and fit within the overall legal and institutional structure of the country. 

Suggested citation

IFRC & UNDP, Effective law and regulation for disaster risk reduction: a multi country report (New York 2014). 

Footnotes

  1. UNISDR, Impacts of disasters since the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, (2012).

  2. For definitions of all terminology used in this report please refer to the multi-country report and UNISDR terminology on DRR at www.unisdr.org/we/inform/terminology.

  3. Resolution 7, 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, November 2011, convening all state parties to the Geneva Conventions, with the IFRC, the1 Effective law and regulation for disaster risk reduction: a multi-country report – SUMMARY International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the 189 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.