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24. Concluding remarks

Government and civil society intervention may be required to deal successfully with disaster risk and other risks affecting households in a given area (Holzmann, 2001). In the long run, the effectiveness of disaster risk management will depend on the mix of available informal, market-based and public mechanisms (Pantoja 2002). Whilst providing clear policy messages and legal provisions through improved regulatory frameworks, the margins of manoeuvre of NGOs and CBOs should be expanded, and not only under the circumstances following a disaster. Successful disaster reduction strategies involve careful efforts to combine knowledge, technology, expertise, institutional capacities, management skills, and practical experience for optimum results, all of which needs the collaboration between government and civil society.

To further our analysis of the interaction between natural disasters, DRM and socio-economic development, more research is necessary, including also on the long-term development impact of natural disasters. More cost-benefit analyses that indicate the “sunk costs” of not responding to hazard risk and the income foregone through natural disasters need to be carried out. Not least, these would contribute to change the predominating view of DRM initiatives, which, like the training of human resources, must be seen investments rather than as mere costs. In disaster-prone regions, country assistance strategies should explicitly address disaster management as an integral part of long-term development planning - but to be backed politically and approved by constituencies, they will need to be better informed by research and analyses, including about the “disasters that did not happen”. This will of course not be sufficient to make agriculture, the sector on which most disaster-prone countries depend, “disaster-proof”, and much more investment in sustainable NRM is needed.

As agricultural development has become largely uninteresting to donors - ODA to the sector has been declining steadily - efforts could be tied to a type of humanitarian assistance that does not undermine household coping strategies but strengthens them. The wider utilisation of approaches that attempt to put communities in the driver’s seat while also assigning a prominent role to local government, being pursued for example in Latin America by bilateral cooperation agencies, is dependent upon the processes of decentralisation and democratisation (as one of their main proponents, GTZ, readily admits). It must be borne in mind in this context that ‘communal development’ does not equate ‘community development’, as there is, particularly in Francophone countries, often semantic confusion between the two, with the administrative systems of countries benefiting from donor interventions unsurprisingly in favour of the former and suspicious of the latter.

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