Analyse, prevent, adapt, avoid

Instruments for disaster risk management

Volunteers from the Red Crescent Society in Bangladesh using a megaphone to warn village residents from an approaching tropical storm

In order to reduce the risk of disasters, numerous players at the local and national levels need to cooperate with one another. These players include the government, public authorities, the private sector, scientists and academics, and civil society. The better the different elements of disaster risk management are linked together to form a single system, the better a country is able to prepare for an immediate threat and to respond if and when disaster strikes. The following instruments come into play as part of development cooperation in this context:

  • Risk analysis
  • Prevention, mitigation, adaptation
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Disaster-resilient recovery
  • Risk transfer
  • Avoiding new risks

In order to promote the exchange of knowledge and experience between German and regional experts, the German government has launched a Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management (GIDRM), for which the Development Ministry (BMZ) is the lead ministry. More information on this subject can be found here.

Risk analysis

Risk analysis involves analysing the probability of natural events and also the vulnerability of the population likely to be affected by them. For example, the probability and severity of a natural hazard is calculated, and the most important risk factors for society, such as the economic situation, the social environment, the prevailing environmental conditions and the settlement density, are determined. Moreover, risk analyses include various damage scenarios and an analysis of various ways to return to normality as quickly as possible following a disaster.

When such analyses are carried out, the local people are involved in the process just as much as the government officials responsible for the government response. Those likely to be affected are the best sources of information about "their" natural hazards. As a general rule, however, they lack the technical, financial and political means to use their knowledge for concrete preparedness measures. They often find it difficult as well to adjust to changes in the risks they face, such as changes due to climate change. A risk analysis conducted on a participatory basis raises risk awareness and enables the various actors to play an active role in preparing for disasters.

Prevention, mitigation, adaptation

The aim of disaster preparedness is to avert an extreme natural event from the outset or at least reduce its impacts as much as possible. This can be achieved either through technical measures, for example building dykes and flood protection walls, or by ecosystem-based responses such as planting mangrove forests. They provide protection against floods and erosion and are a good instrument for adaptation to the increased risk of flooding caused by climate change. Drafting appropriate legislation is also part of disaster risk management. This includes, for example, restrictions on land use in flood regions and building regulations in earthquake zones.

Emergency preparedness

Good disaster preparedness can reduce the number of victims and the material losses quite substantially. Early warning systems are set up for this purpose and evacuation and emergency plans are drawn up, for example for hospitals and schools. Training is given to both professional emergency services staff and volunteers working in the field of civil protection.

In order to ensure that, if a disaster strikes, effective help is provided quickly, the officials responsible for dealing with such events are given training, and the requisite political and legal measures are put in place.

Disaster-resilient recovery

One overarching goal of German development policy is to break through the cycle of poverty and vulnerability to natural hazards. After an extreme natural event, efforts are therefore made to learn from the disaster and to make disaster risk management measures an integral part of the recovery process.

The aim is to rebuild infrastructure as quickly as possible, all the while ensuring that the foundations of the society hit by the disaster and of people’s livelihoods are sustainably secured, so that they will not be destroyed again when the next natural event occurs. For example, slum dwellers are helped to legalise their status and thus gain access to public services. In rural areas, when new areas for farming are designated, they are protected against landslides so as to make them more disaster-resilient.

In all reconstruction projects supported under German development cooperation, steps are taken to ensure that local communities are able to take responsibility for what is rebuilt. That is the way to make sure that the measures will be effective in the long term.

Risk transfer

Appropriate financing solutions can be used to shift the risk from the individual victim of a disaster to the community. For example, insurance products can be adjusted to reflect local conditions and to provide quick financial support if and when disaster strikes. Risk funds that are set up jointly by several countries with a high level of disaster risk are another option. They are able to make money available quickly in an emergency.

Avoiding new risks

As in the case of any other investment, it is also extremely important in the case of development cooperation to avoid creating new risks through the interventions carried out. The BMZ thus encourages careful risk analysis for all projects in vulnerable regions, for example for construction projects.

For its development cooperation programmes in this field, Germany not only works with environmental and disaster management authorities, but also more and more frequently with finance and planning ministries, so that disaster risks can be considered in advance in all public and private projects.

BMZ glossary

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