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19. Towards an “Enabling Environment” for Local Institutional Development in DRM

A chief constraint towards a more favourable environment for organisational and local institutional development in DRM is the very short attention spans that natural disaster risks generally command. In the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster strike, with memories of human and material losses vivid, mitigation investment is a very high priority in both the eyes of communities at risk and also local and central governments. As time goes by and memories fade, so too does the priority for mitigation. In extreme cases of volcanoes that have been inactive for up to one hundred years - such as Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 - even mounting scientific evidence of the impending catastrophic eruptions was unable to stimulate local communities into taking mitigation measures to protect themselves.

The thematic breadth of necessary mitigation and preventive measures as well as the intimate linkage between natural disasters and development illustrate that DRM needs the collaboration of a wide cross-section of actors from different sectors (among others, agriculture, natural resource management and the environment, infrastructure, civil protection, education and health). Within the responsibilities and areas of activity of these sectors and actors partial strategies and disaster prevention measures can be integrated.

Which is why, increasingly, within countries exposed to hazard risk as well as in the context of development cooperation, a multisectoral, integrated approach is adopted. Such an approach is relevant for efforts undertaken at community level and for emerging national level systems, and should create part of the enabling environment for local institutional development in DRM.

For Total Disaster Risk Management (TDRM - see the box in this Section), the following enabling mechanisms are important in order to attain objectives at the local and national levels (Guzman 2002):

The full implications of the relationship between natural disasters, disaster management and economic and social development are rarely fully understood. To incorporate better the relationship to development planning, there are some important steps to take. There is a need for further research into the long-term development impact of natural disasters - especially through the secondary effects mentioned earlier in this report - and appropriate responses to them, based on learning experience already acquired.

19.1 The Total Disaster Risk Management Approach

The Total Disaster Risk Management Approach (TDRM), which is being developed in collaboration with ADRC, comprises six systematic steps for problem definition, analysis, decision-making, implementation and monitoring and review (Guzman 2002):

  • First, establish the disaster risk context. This step establishes the strategic, organisational and risk management context.

  • Second, identify the disaster risks. This step identifies what, why, and how hazards or certain events or occurrences could translate into disasters.

  • Third, analyse the disaster risks. This step determines the existing controls and analyses disaster risks in terms of likelihood and consequences in the context of those controls. The analysis should consider how likely is an event to happen, and what are the potential consequences and their magnitude.

  • Fourth, assess and prioritize the disaster risks. This step compares estimated levels of risk against the pre-established criteria and ranks disaster risks to identify disaster management priorities (acceptable vs. treat risk).

  • Fifth, treat the disaster risks. This step involves identifying a range of options for treating the priority risks, such as options for prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery, agreeing on intervention options, planning and implementing intervention strategies.

  • Lastly, monitor and review. This is important since few risks remain static and the disaster risk system and plan must remain relevant.

Source: Guzman 2002 (

A problem in this respect is posed by the fact that DRM initiatives are rarely seen as investments but are rather treated as a mere cost; not least, this is due to the absence of scholarly cost-benefit analyses to make the point. From an emergency reconstruction perspective, many still see disaster management as traditionally being outside the normal business of development, as if it were an exceptional activity brought about by exceptional circumstances. It is indeed ironical that in the most disaster-prone countries such exceptional activities are carried on almost regularly year-after-year. Awareness-raising campaigns are thus needed, without which changes in attitudes, and, by implication, in the enabling environment for local institutions in DRM, will remain elusive.

Diagramme 2: Examples of Activities at Different Stages to increase Local DRM Capacity

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