Why Sendai is important for Africa
17 Mar 2015 by Aliou Dia, Team Leader, Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change, Africa
This week the world will gather in Sendai, Japan, to mark the end of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) and the beginning of a new global framework on disaster risk reduction (DRR).
Sendai is a golden opportunity for Africa to engage meaningfully in the debate and be heard in the light of its current economic transformation. Africa has seven of the top ten fastest growing economies— that growth, if not well managed, will likely contribute to new risks, including the potentially negative fallout from rapid urbanization and industrialization, the intensive use of natural resources and the degradation of ecosystems.
One of the biggest achievements of the HFA in Africa has been raising awareness on disaster risk. It has been a tremendous vehicle for engaging African governments, sub-regional and regional institutions on DRR, and an important addition to Africa’s development agenda. The HFA has helped many African nations adopt legislation and shape institutional arrangements that include DRR.
Yet, while considerable progress has been made over the last decade, the continent is still facing many challenges. The Horn of Africa and the Sahel region are continuously under threat of drought. Floods annually affect many cities and rural areas, with huge socio-economic impacts on resources and communities. The recent floods in Malawi and Mozambique highlight the critical need for the continent to view disaster resilience as an important means of protecting development gains.
Even though the HFA has raised awareness, many African countries still do not perceive DRR as a key national priority. When DRR is not seen as a development issue, it is often passed over by high-level government decision-makers. National budget allocations, public expenditure and investment for DRR are simply not a priority.
Officials and decision-makers ask: “Why should we invest in something which may not happen? What will be our return on investment if we put national resources on DRR? How can we prioritize DRR over other priority demands?”
Many countries, unfortunately, are still in “response mode,” with a very limited focus on and capacity for prevention and preparedness.
A lot of work still needs to be done to assess the value of evidence-based DRR interventions, develop the capacity of key stakeholders (ministries of planning and finance, in particular) and create and transfer knowledge via research and education, civil society organizations and community-based organizations. The private sector’s involvement in DRR has been weak in Africa—to increase such involvement will require guarantees of a return on investment.
So far, discussions and negotiations around the new DRR framework have not been easy. Many African countries have advocated strongly for the specific inclusion of health hazards. They have highlighted the link between disasters and insecurity (as well as population growth and environmental degradation trends), and have tried to stress the need for the new framework to cover conflict situations.
The need for a better-integrated approach to DRR and climate change has been strongly voiced by African states, and several countries have also insisted on stronger links between the new framework and the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals. The latter is particularly relevant for Africa, where the impacts of natural disasters on development gains equally impact governments and communities.
In Sendei, Africa will certainly advocate for more investment in DRR as an integral part of development efforts. Sendai will also provide opportunities to profit from South-South and triangular cooperation, and the African Union Commission and Regional Economic Communities will convene meetings with strategic partners to discuss key priorities for the next 10 years.
Africa’s stakes in Sendai are very high. Sendai will provide the region with a unique platform to mobilize and galvanize global, regional and national support for a post-2015 DRR framework that is responsive to Africa’s priorities. These efforts will support African countries to disaster-proof, invest in risk-focused planning and ensure effective implementation of resilience measures.