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12. How to Facilitate Institutional Linkages and foster a Collaborative Approach

The recent hurricane Mitch In Latin America (which is said to have set back the development of Honduras by 20 years) and Orissa cyclone in South Asia have had major impacts on the countries’ respective institutional environments and organisational set-ups. These regulate the collaboration among civil society and government stakeholders, and, ideally, should seek to exploit the comparative advantages of both. “Experience in Orissa and in other parts of India shows that NGO focus on sector-specific issues such as livelihood, community organisation, community asset creation, women group formation, etc. accelerates social and economic recovery after disasters. Such initiatives meaningfully supplement larger infrastructure reconstruction initiatives of the government” (Behera, 2002: 3). The latter has set up the Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority (OSDMA), a registered society that took on a major coordination role from January 2000, drafting a “Community Contingency Plan for Floods and Cyclones, Orissa”.

OSDMA and the UNDMT (United Nations Disaster Management Team) initiated NGO coordination meetings at the State level (through the State Level Coordination Committee Meetings) whilst coordination at the District (through monthly District Level Co-ordination Committees), block and Gram Panchayat (local government) levels was achieved through both coordination meetings and by assigning “lead agency” status to a main NGO in each Gram Panchayat. Their function was to avoid duplication of effort and to facilitate co-operation. Following the establishment of a livelihoods database by the UN, 38 areas of duplication of effort were nonetheless identified and 150 cases of unrepresented Gram Panchayats discovered; all inputs into each village in the affected areas have been entered into an extensive database. About 40 local and international NGOs set up an emergency response network called Orissa Disaster Mitigation Mission (ODMM) to coordinate their post-cyclone relief and rehabilitation work, establishing a Volunteers Hub at the state capital and running a volunteers base camp.

It appears that the “tapping” of social (or ‘societal’) capital and of synergies between communities and local governments is rarely achieved in practice, as institutional configurations and professional mentalities may not necessarily be conducive in this respect. In North-West China, according to Yongong et al. (1999), community leaders such as township, village and production team leaders, and herders' households have played insufficient and passive roles and functions in the different stages of pastoral risk management. Yet, “village/community leaders and production team leaders have (...) the trust of local community members which allow them to play a key role as intermediaries between herders and the extension service. However, the visits of village leaders to households are normally only for collecting animal taxes, arranging the children's school enrolment and forwarding the policy instructions to herders. Their role of assisting the extension service should, therefore, be reconsidered and reworked as part of a risk management strategy in order to gain value added from their comparative strengths and good connections” (Yongong et al., 1999: 17).

The real functions of herder's groups seem to be overlooked by the county-level extension agents, who normally have no direct contact with them, but rather contact village leaders and production team leaders when they visit a community. The “zhangquan” traditional groups (see Section 8.2 above) tend to include “innovative herders or the village veterinarians who have more contact with outside organizations and community leaders. (p11). On the other hand, conversely, governmental organisations, such as Provincial Department of Animal Husbandry, Prefecture Animal Husbandry Bureau and County Animal Husbandry Bureau, Poverty Alleviation Bureau, Civil Affairs Office and the county government continue to play dominant roles in risk avoidance, risk relief and recovery procedures. Thus, whilst emergencies represent good opportunities for overcoming a series of institutional constraints that may be hampering collaboration at the local level, studies may point out the importance of collaborative efforts and coordination, especially where no disaster-specific body such as OSDMA exists.

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