When Lord Ashdown published his Humanitarian Emergency Response Review I authored a post broadly welcoming its conclusions. Its emphasis on anticipation, resilience and innovation was excellent and well thought through. The report seemed to be welcomed by NGOs across the country and it was sincerely hoped that the Department for International Development (DFID) would accept its conclusions.
Yesterday DFID's Secretary of State, Andrew Mitchell, outlined the Government's response to the paper - and did accept the vast majority of its conclusions. Andrew Mitchell stated that resilience will be built into all of its country programmes over the next four years. This transition from simply responding to emergencies to anticipating them, and building resilience into its core development work will result in reductions in lost lives, and reduce the social and economic impacts of such disasters.
Outlined below are some key policy commitments (blue) made within this response and their significance:
Improve DFID's use of science in both predicting and preparing for disasters, drawing on the Chief Scientific Advisors’ network across government. Ensure scientific data on disaster risks is used to inform and prioritise country and regional level work on resilience.
- The increased and improved use of science in predicting and preparing for disasters and building resilience is welcome. GfGD will be writing to DFID shortly to ask how geological science will be fed into this system, and state our belief that they should be making full use of geologist's knowledge and skills in this sector.
Make building resilience a core part of DFID’s approach in all of the countries where we work. Integrate resilience and disaster risk reduction into our work on climate change.
- For every £1 spent on disaster risk reduction, around £7 can be saved in economic losses, as well as many lives saved. It is of huge benefit to build resilience across developing countries. As countries adapt to climate change, they must also build resilience to new and emerging threats. With this in mind GfGD will be writing to DFID to ask them to review their decision to end funding to the UNISDR
Make humanitarian research and innovation a core part of DFID research and evidence work. Establish a ‘virtual’ humanitarian research and innovations team, under the direction of DFID’s Chief Scientific adviser
- DFID's research must include ways to improve the anticipation of hazards and disasters. The development of multi-hazard risk assessments is one way to improve our understanding of the interaction of hazards.
Use innovative techniques and technologies more routinely in humanitarian response (for instance, cash transfers).
- The use of GIS, remote sensing images and multi-hazard models will play a crucial role in planning a response to any humanitarian situation.
Work with others to establish a single set of common accountability standards, which require participation of the most vulnerable groups (women, children, old people and disabled people) in all stages of the programme cycle.
- In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of any resilience programmes there must be wide-ranging participation of the community. For DFID to require participation of the most vulnerable groups is an important step towards improving sustainability.
Designate a Director General as a humanitarian and resilience champion
- The decision to have a senior member of the DFID team to champion resilience is welcomed.
Incorporating disaster risk reduction into all areas of DFID's work is crucial to reducing the economic and social impacts of natural and man-made disasters. Building resilience within communities, improving modeling in order to help anticipate hazards and target resilience building, and improving innovation to reduce risk and improve our response are all very important. It is good news that the Government has welcomed the vast majority of the conclusions of this report. In order to get the maximum positive impact from adopting these measures DFID must draw strongly on good science and engineering knowledge. There is a clear role also for those with the specialised knowledge and skills of the geosciences.