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Final plenary session

Session 5

Day 2

Plenary Session
Working group presentations – findings, conclusions and recommendations

Chairing and facilitation by FAO organizers

Following the discussions, group rapporteurs reported back in plenary using their MS Word or PowerPoint notes prepared by the note taker. Conclusions were formulated in a final plenary discussion.

The forum concludes

As a result of the tsunami, everyone has something in place now. Where is your information management and coordination system is at present and what you need to do to ensure your system remains in place and is effective for the next disaster?

information management systems under budgeted, either insufficiently or inadequately resourced and usually attended with delays.

Prior to the tsunami, information management systems were under budgeted and either insufficiently or inadequately resourced. A common problem was that following the tsunami, information systems did not receive timely and sufficient funds or resources (equipment, staff, etc.). Donors, and to some extent recipient countries, continue to show reluctance to fund information management systems, in part because these types of projects don’t “fit” with conventional project funding cycles and don’t generally satisfy the need of donors and governments to deliver “material” benefits. As information management systems are supposed to, among other, provide for timely interventions in aid delivery, they can only serve this purpose if their establishment is timely within the overall operation.

Where resources have been made available for information systems they have delivered good results.

information management systems require long-term commitment

A related and recurring issue is the initial high investments required in establishing systems, but too few resources budgeted to gather, enter and maintain data. These systems require that long-term capacities be addressed.

end users must be involved in design

Systems often fail to deliver on their promise because end users are not involved in the initial design.

information systems must serve donors and national development planners

It will be important for this forum to highlight the benefits of information systems and to raise awareness of the value of information in relation to donors’ needs, national development goals and resource mobilization.

baseline data essential

Baseline data is essential and needs to be part of any emergency package. National governments should address this by building on what already exists and establishing banks of appropriate baseline data that would be required in the event of a disaster. Special attention needs to be given to the poorest of the poor and marginalized peoples. These considerations need to be addressed in funding proposals from national governments, e.g. including budget lines to cover costs.

specific needs and commitments

In Thailand there is a need to build capacity within the Department of Fisheries to manage the system. In Aceh, BRR is committed to addressing problems of data gathering, updating and maintenance and assisting in the near term.

The overall goal of the FAO project was to enhance the capacity of governments to coordinate tsunami assistance and manage information. What were the achievements of the FAO OSRO/RAS/ 503/CHA project and how was its impact perceived by the Ministries? Of these achievements, which ones are sustainable? Which ones will governments maintain and develop? Review the coordination role of FAO in the tsunami emergency and rehabilitation activities.

a strong desire to continue the work initiated under FAO OSRO/RAS/503/CHA

Participants representing national governments and government agencies made it clear that FAO OSRO/RAS/503/CHA was considered a small but significant and highly valued contribution to national efforts to respond to the emergency and to the rehabilitation and recovery phases. They also expressed a strong desire to continue the work initiated in many of the projects. The need now is for continued funding to ensure sustainability.

project implementation started late, duration was short, funding was modest.

donors strongly encouraged to continue funding coordination activities

It was agreed by the forum that donors should be strongly encouraged to continue funding coordination activities as the need for information management and coordination is well established. FAO OSRO/RAS/ 503/CHA provided a much needed starting point and countries are now much better equipped in terms of data systems and need funding to keep the momentum.

the role of FAO

FAO considers its coordination role in emergency situations to be of the highest importance, particularly when the scale of external assistance is very large. FAO can help coordinate funds from many types of donors (e.g. ODA, NGOs) and can assist with coordination beyond the initial inputs. “Scaling down” FAO’s presence in any country will tend to have the effect of creating a temporary “vacuum” in withdrawal of services, but governments must bear in mind that in the case of the tsunami, the level of services provided by FAO went beyond the norm. Coordination should go beyond crisis management but there must be an exit strategy and this is an aspect that FAO can address in collaboration with national governments. Part of that discussion is how do we help Ministries implement an exit strategy and that they have the capacities and structures to do so.

What is the way forward in terms of information management, exchange and coordination mechanisms in the transition phase from rehabilitation to development and longer-term projects in the sectors of agriculture, fisheries and forestry? How will the existing coordination mechanisms evolve in the post rehabilitation environment? How will they serve the long-term vision of development? Is there a vision?

building back but loosingknowledge in the process

There is a vision, we are building back better. The transition phase is critical but tools and processes are still lacking and much valuable information is being lost in the process.

coordination tools must be aligned to goals of national development plans

Coordination tools must be aligned to goals of national development plans gathering the baseline data and having it ready for use in emergencies; need to start thinking and planning these things from the beginning of the emergency.

temporary structures and mechanisms must go to line ministries

During the emergency, temporary structures and mechanisms were set up and now those structures and mechanisms must go to line ministries.

building back a different scale of response from emergency relief

The aim of activities in the emergency mode is to benefit as many people as quickly as possible. Building back is a different scale of response. The target audience changes and the response changes. In the redevelopment phase, for example, the focus shifts to fishers willing to cooperate rather than those in extreme need. It is difficult to capture these subtle shifts in one or two years, hence donors should be encouraged to continue funding.

governments need to lobby for transition funds

Rather than wait until the emergency and rehabilitation phases are over, those who write the projects should be thinking about requesting funds for transition and development during the emergency phase. Considering the way many donors work, it can be easier to get the funds far in advance than to request them “after the fact”. Most donors have different budget lines for emergencies and development and struggle to determine where the funds should come from for “transition” activities. Donors also tend to be concerned about the immediate impact on livelihoods and governments would be well advised to keep informing donors about the longer-term impact on livelihoods (3-6 months after; 2 years after). Governments need to lobby for transition funds.

What are the values and benefits in a regional (Asia-wide) approach? Are there potential drawbacks to regional approaches? Who are the regional actors? Are countries building back better or just building back newer (i.e. replacing losses)? Disasters do not discriminate by social and other boundaries, what are the consequences of this?

“building back better” a useful slogan

Is it possible to build back better with less investment than the value of loss caused by the disaster? “Better” does not necessarily mean “more”, unless “more” means with more thought to the process of addressing opportunities. For the people and communities affected by a disaster, “something is better than nothing”. People in communities devastated by a tsunami cannot and do not want to wait for “the best” solution to their long-term problems. “Building back better” is a useful slogan and rallying call. In reality, it is probably expecting too much to think that we could have built better in only two years. There are, for example, no indicators to tell us what “better” is. Now we need to build back. The “better” will come in the future.

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