- Dr. Akram H Chowdhury
Stakeholders Consultation Workshop on Disaster Recovery Planning
CIRDAP Auditorium, Dhaka, Bangladesh
9-10 December 2014
Considering that “disasters are inevitable in Bangladesh due to its high vulnerability index”, the Government, specifically the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR), recognized the need for strategic options that will further reduce the impacts of disaster. In particular, the Ministry is advocating the “build back better” principle of recovery to seize the opportunity to correct the limitations and failures of previous practices, policies, and programs. Greater advocacy for resilient recovery is essential in Bangladesh because there is a gap in knowledge, practice, and resources in this area. Firstly, the concept of recovery is not yet fully integrated in the policies and planning instruments of the Government such that recovery is not clearly articulated in the Standing Orders on Disaster (SOD) and National Plan for Disaster Management. Secondly, recovery plans and efforts are not yet fully aligned with the long-term development agenda. For instance, the Disaster Management Act of 2012 does not stipulate predictable funding for recovery. Thirdly, stakeholders and other key actors are not yet fully engaged and coordinated to take on recovery functions after a disaster. One of the reasons is that there is no existing mechanism for cooperation in the context of recovery.
Against this backdrop, the MoDMR, in cooperation with the Institute of Strategic Recovery Studies for Disaster Resilience and Research (ISRSDRR) and the International Recovery Platform (IRP), had jointly organized a Stakeholders Consultation Workshop on Disaster Recovery Planning, 9-10 December 2014 at CIRDAP Auditorium in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The workshop was supported by local partners, namely: UNDP, Australian Aid, Islamic Relief, and Christian Aid.
Participated by over 50 stakeholder representatives, the consultation achieved the general objective of creating the foundation for promoting resilient recovery and paving the way for sustainable development in Bangladesh through the following specific results: (i) recovery agenda was introduced to key stakeholders, (ii) the ground works for establishing a National Recovery Platform were prepared, and (iii) the draft “Recovery Action Plan” was discussed and endorsed by stakeholders.
During the two-day consultation workshop, discussions pertaining to (i) post-disaster recovery experience, (ii) recovery action plan, and (iii) institutionalization of recovery functions at the national and local governments were highlighted.
Post-Disaster Recovery Experience
A panel comprising representatives from government, INGO, NGOs, and academe had reflected and shared experiences on post-disaster recovery in Bangladesh. The discussions revealed that the country has much experience such that it was the first case where the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) tool was applied. Additionally, there are existing legal mechanisms and structures in the government that can be amended and restructured to fully integrate recovery, such as the updating of the National Plan for Disaster Management. Furthermore, there have been initiatives from INGOs/NGOs as well as from universities that can springboard for greater articulation of recovery agenda. For instance, after cyclone Sidr, there have efforts of reconstructing more resilient shelters and infrastructures. On part of the universities, research on the role of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) in disaster risk reduction and recovery were conducted. In one of the NGO’s research findings, it was found that “flexibility” of Bangladesh people is crucial factor for resilience.
While some initiatives are generally advancing in disaster risk reduction, still, the challenges in recovery component are huge. It was affirmed from past experiences that recovery is not yet fully incorporated in DRR efforts. For example, the panel mentioned that recovery efforts in Bangladesh still need systems and mechanisms for accountability, coordination, risk-informed planning/budgeting, and rights-based (e.g. inclusion of marginal groups) strategies and actions.
Recovery Action Plan
The proposed “Bangladesh Recovery Action Plan” (initiated by MoDMR in close consultation with key stakeholders, including ISRSDRR and UNDP) was presented at the plenary. The stakeholders were divided into three groups, and each group discussed and presented their respective recommendations. There are four key action areas of the proposed plan that the stakeholders affirmed as crucial. These action areas are:
(a) Institutionalization of Recovery Functions. In institutionalizing the recovery functions, the actions to be taken include mandating the MoDMR as the focal institution for recovery functions (e.g. policy recommendations) with the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) as the implementing agency. Both the MoDMR and the DDM will be supported by a National Recovery Platform, wherein the membership is inter-ministerial, multi-sectoral, and multi-disciplinary.
(b) Predictable Funding for Recovery. Several actions were recommended to have a dedicated funding for resilient recovery. These include amending the Disaster Management Act of 2012 so that the National/ District Disaster Funds can cover recovery. Additionally, existing financing mechanisms can be further reviewed to integrate recovery component. The role of private sector can also be explored as potential financing resource.
(c) Mechanism for Cooperation. Among the recommended actions to strengthen mechanisms for cooperation in recovery include adoption as well as localization of general guidelines on post-disaster needs assessment, which is recognized as an important tool for developing a national disaster recovery plan.
(d) Readiness and Capacity. The stakeholders also affirmed that readiness and capacity for recovery planning are crucial. One of the key actions suggested was for the MoDMR to take the lead in convening members of the National Recovery Platform to consider formulating a national disaster recovery framework to guide an effective organization and coordination of recovery efforts. These actions shall be done in parallel with updating and/or developing sector-specific and hazard-specific guidelines on recovery. To further support readiness, external partners and stakeholders may be engaged to provide technical assistance (e.g. IRP may be invited to facilitate the development pre-disaster recovery plan).
The idea of institutionalizing recovery functions in the national and local governments was further discussed by a panel comprising representatives from MoDMR, Ministry of Commerce, OCHA, World Bank, Islamic Relief, and ISRSDRR. The panel re-affirmed the importance of a National Recovery Platform (NRP) to support policy recommendations at MoDMR. Among the recommended functions of the NRP include i) advisory role on policy development ii) knowledge management & capacity building iii) coordination of recovery support functions and activities. To take this forward, the panel suggested that a “Directorate for Recovery” may be created at the MoDMR and take the Secretariat function of NRP. Other suggestion is to activate the existing government structure on disaster risk management such as DDM and integrate recovery as key component. The panel reiterated that the composition of the NRP shall be inter-ministerial, multi-sectoral, and multi- disciplinary to better address the complex issues of recovery.
As way forward, the MoDMR will facilitate further consultation on proposed “Bangladesh Recovery Action Plan”, including sending emails to all participants for feedback. Additionally, the MoDMR will lead the ground works for establishing the NRP by initially gathering the names of focal points for recovery at various ministries. Other suggested actions to be taken are: (i) organization of a three-day workshop on disaster recovery planning to be participated by inter-ministerial representatives and key stakeholders; (ii) half-day orientation on recovery among parliamentarians, (iii) activation of the inter-ministerial council, Inter-Ministerial Disaster Management Coordination committee, National Disaster Management Committee, Earthquake Preparedness and Awareness Committee etc., which are stipulated in the SOD – to take on recovery functions, (iv) propose amendments to the Disaster Management Act of 2012 or propose for a separate “National Recovery Act” to secure recovery financing, and (v) advocate for clear articulation of the recovery component in the process of updating the National Plan for Disaster Management.