Strengthening disaster management for a sustainable future

Examples from El Salvador and Indonesia in building resilience through recovery

May 25, 2022
Women overlooking the damage caused by storm Amanda

Tropical Storm Amanda struck El Salvador in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo: PMA/Mauricio Martinez

Indonesia’s location on the Pacific Ring of Fire presents an increased risk of environmental disaster. The country has seen its fair share of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis, while climate change has caused a spike in the number of extreme weather patterns, with increased drought, heavy rainfall and floods, and hurricanes.

The Government of Indonesia is harnessing technology and data science to build disaster preparedness. In 2016, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, with support from UNDP, launched “InaRISK”, an application to map out the disaster high-risk areas with impacted population, providing information on the potential of physical damage and financial cost, the potential of economic loss, and the potential of environmental damage.

InaRISK is allowing the public to see disaster risks in their areas, building disaster preparedness based on data. It is a tool to map, monitor and reduce disaster risk for the archipelago country with over 17,000 islands spanning over three time zones.

UNDP collected disaster data in Central Sulawesi that was incorporated into the InaRISK app.

Photo: UNDP Indonesia

Around the world, countries hit by weather-related disasters due to climate change are struggling to recover as the impacts are amplified by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Women bore the brunt of this twin crisis: they were the first to lose jobs in hotels, restaurants, industry and construction. These job losses accounted for nearly two-thirds of the women employed in these sectors. In addition, pre-existing gender inequalities worsened as the multiple duties of women, due to care responsibilities, increased during the crisis.  

Across the Pacific Ocean, El Salvador, also a country prone to extreme weather events, has had similar initiatives in disaster risk management after it was hit by Tropical Storm Amanda in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. 

To assist in the full recovery of the affected people over the longer term, the Government of El Salvador conducted an assessment using the globally established Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) and COVID-19 Recovery Needs Assessment (CRNA) with support from UNDP, World Bank and the European Union. The PDNA and CRNA contribute to the practice of assessing crisis, which is becoming more complex, multidimensional and interconnected, particularly with COVID-19 heavily impacting on poverty and inequalities in many societies. To strengthen the institutional environment for implementation of the recovery programme, the Government of El Salvador is in the process of adopting a regulatory framework.

The Government’s engagement in the two processes of the assessment and recovery framework allowed them to shift their approach from disaster response to recovery through reconstruction of infrastructure and addressing the social and economic needs of affected households, which truly enabled most people to recover from the twin crisis of the storm and the pandemic. The Government also adopted the PDNA methodology as a standard tool to assess the impacts of disasters in the country to inform their recovery processes. 

Assessing people's needs during crisis is becoming more complex, multidimensional and interconnected, particularly with COVID-19 heavily impacting on poverty and inequalities.

Photo: WFP El Salvador/David Fernandez

UNDP’s approach to recovery has been rooted in the tenets of resilience, which is one of the six signature solutions in UNDP’s Strategic Plan 2022-2025. Resilient recovery builds the foundation for a sustainable and speedy return to development by aiming to reduce vulnerabilities to recurring hazards, and as a result helping nations like Indonesia reduce the vicious cycle of poverty and vulnerability that impairs progress towards achieving the country’s development goals.  

The critical aspects of UNDP’s work in advancing recovery are enshrined in its policy directives, including the recently drafted UNDP Recovery Policy and Corporate Offer on Crisis and Fragility. These documents articulate the key recovery processes and principles of assistance to countries.

More importantly, they highlight UNDP’s commitment to a people-centred recovery process focusing on people with disabilities, women, the aged, ethnic minorities, and those left behind with livelihoods, housing and skills to rebuild better and stronger.  In fragile and conflict contexts, recovery should foster social cohesion through decisions based on consensus and equitable access to resources by all ethnic groups.

The draft policy states that recovery programmes should be informed by risks. It also advocates for recovery and reconstruction processes to rebuild natural assets, restore degraded land and regenerate biodiversity, and use renewable energy, thus contributing to reducing the impacts of climate change.

Building back better or stronger means ensuring that infrastructure and housing are disaster resilient to withstand future hazards while building strong support systems for people, through better social protection, insurance, access to credit and alternative livelihoods.

The experiences of El Salvador and Indonesia show how governments, civil society, vulnerable groups, development partners and the private sector could organize recovery initiatives to plan for disaster risk reduction, and manage complex crises with which many economies are grappling. 

The fifth edition of the World Reconstruction Conference (WRC) provided the unique opportunity to listen to lessons and shared experiences of national governments.

Hosted by UNDP in collaboration with the World Bank/Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the International Recovery Platform, the WRC brought together over 1,500 participants (in-person and remote) to: 1) take stock of approaches, tools and methodologies as well as best practices to address the socio-economic effects of the pandemic; 2) reiterate our commitment to build back better, greener and more sustainably; 3) propose more effective planning, financing, management tools and institutional systems for complex and interconnected events.

The Conference takes us closer to a shared commitment of risk informed and resilient recovery. The collaboration of UNDP with the governments of Indonesia and El Salvador provides an example of just that.