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October 2004

The role of local institutions in reducing vulnerability to recurrent natural disasters and in sustainable livelihoods development

Consolidated report on case studies and Workshop findings and recommendations

by Federica Battista
and Stephan Baas
Rural Institutions and Participation Service
FAO Rural Development Division


Global data indicates that in the last decade natural disasters occurred more frequently than in the past and were more destructive.

While recognizing that assistance in the response phase of a natural disaster remains important and needs to be enhanced at all levels, there is an increased recognition that the ultimate aim of natural disaster management strategies should be to reduce the vulnerability of local communities (and countries) to natural hazards, through the implementation of more effective prevention and preparedness measures, and integration of risk management into long-term development planning.

FAO has clearly signaled that long-term development objectives should not and cannot be set aside during emergencies and decided to further strengthen its policy advisory and technical activities in countries that are especially prone to natural hazards with a view to ensuring that disaster risk management (DRM) is a key consideration within sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD) policies and programmes in such countries.

The first phase of the Programme Activity focused on a comparative study on the role of local institutions in reducing vulnerability to natural hazards and included: a comprehensive analysis of secondary material; nine case studies in different regions (Argentina, Burkina Faso, Honduras, Iran, Mozambique, Niger, Philippines, South Africa, Vietnam) focusing on lessons learned from concrete examples and experiences of local action before, during and after situations of natural hazards; and a workshop for an analytical comparison between the case studies (31 March- 2 April 2004).

The overall outcomes of Phase 1 include: the identification of comparative strengths and weaknesses of local institutions and other key actors in DRM, good practice examples of key elements of DRM systems and case specific policy and operational recommendations.

On the basis of SDAR’s experience in local rural institutions, follow-up initiatives will continue to focus on recurrent events/chronic processes gradually increasing the vulnerability of livelihoods systems. Three key strategies of the DRM and rural development integration will be taken into consideration: a) increasing local communities’ resilience to cope with shocks; b) building on relief as an opportunity to initiate longer term development; and c) improving vertical and horizontal institutional linkages. The follow-up strategy includes the development of normative products and operational pilot projects; the identification of a framework for complementary action with other FAO Services and building strategic and technical partnerships with external partners including Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC), University of Cape Town (UTC), and World Food Programme (WFP).

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