Why we need a framework on urban disaster preparedness, response and resilience
The Financial Enablers (FE) Project is an initiative under the Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Program of the DFID-UK, and the START Network, made up of the biggest international NGOs involved in humanitarian emergency response. In the Philippines, the FE Project is led by OxFam, in partnership with Christian Aid and Tear Fund. The project “Urban Disaster Preparedness, Response and Resilience in the Greater Manila Region”, under the FE Project, is implemented by a consortium composed of nine NGO members—five technical resource group members and four area-based partners—with ALTERPLAN as the consortium lead, and PHILSSA as the consortium secretariat. They banded together to integrate the experience and lessons of the project partners into a framework and strategy paper for Urban Disaster Preparedness, Response and Resilience.
Nine propositions, based on the Urban Disaster Preparedness, Response and Resilience draft framework and strategies for the PHILSSA network, were presented to the plenary for their comments and inputs. The propositions are as follows:
- Data collected in partner communities for the FE project indicate urban characteristics relevant to planning for UDPRR.
- Incidence of human-induced disasters is a major difference between urban and rural settings.
- Urban disaster preparedness response is embedded in PHILSSA’s 12 thematic concerns.
- PHILSSA has the capability and has been able to provide various responses.
- PHILSSA has “unfair advantages” for UDPRR.
- As a development agency implementing humanitarian response, PHILSSA adopts the commitments in the Core Humanitarian Standards.
- PHILSSA chooses to focus on several key actions and organizational responsibilities.
- With Financial Enablers and previous experiences, PHILSSA has consolidated several tools that address key actions.
- (All these will result to changes in) PHILSSA’s medium-term strategies.
Adopting the Core Humanitarian Standards means PHILSSA as a network will pursue actions to operationalize the commitment to the CHS, such as instituting organizational mechanisms and systems to make effective and timely response possible. To achieve this, the documentation and mapping of DRRM initiatives and efforts of the members is needed, and so a three-page information sheet was distributed to the members for this purpose. The information will characterize existing efforts for urban disaster preparedness, response, and resilience, and help with the framework. They were also encouraged to share toolkits that they use to the rest of the network, to aid the design of more effective disaster responses.
PHILSSA also reiterates Community Organizing as the basic approach, and so the members will have to make corresponding adjustments in their strategies in local capacity building at the NGO and PO levels. Aside from strengthening their local presence, PHILSSA members and regional clusters are encouraged to become active members of the regional CSO Coordination Hubs spearheaded by CODE-NGO, to facilitate sharing of experiences and lessons, which is important for advocacy and resource mobilization. The PHILSSA secretariat is also authorized to design programs and mobilize resources for capacity-building of member-NGOs and partner POs.
In the discussion that followed the presentation, additional inputs emerged. At the macro level, existing frameworks that affect disaster preparedness, response and resiliency, such as the land use plan, have to be identified. Ecological/situational/geo-political analyses must be done to come up with a clear plan for response, especially for human-induced disasters. This includes clarifying questions of jurisdiction—which government agency heads relief operations, especially in ARMM? Who are the actors in charge? How many families can certain evacuation sites accommodate? How can we facilitate their evacuation? As NGOs, we should maximize studies to better plan our response.
At the community level, it was mentioned that building communities’ preparedness was crucial—for example, advocating for rainwater harvesting ensures potable water during times of disasters, and instilling the importance of having IDs helps protect one’s person and safeguards his/her legal identity. Community groups must be capacitated for them to become first responders, in order to promote the localization of emergency response. Simultaneous advocacies at the macro and micro level will provide a more holistic approach to disaster planning.
The framework on Urban Disaster Preparedness, Response and Resilience will pool the knowledge and experiences of urban-based CSOs. It will highlight how disasters affect urban areas differently from rural areas, which should inform disaster-related initiatives strategies for disaster preparedness, response, and resilience. As a national NGO network on inclusive, transformative, and sustainable urbanization, PHILSSA must spearhead the creation of this framework, to better frame PHILSSA’s actions in times of disaster, add to existing literature on urbanization and disasters, aid future urban DRRM planning to make it more appropriate and efficient, and improve humanitarian work in urban areas.