International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDRR) 2021 |13 October 2021
Disaster risk management constitutes a core responsibility and capacity of ‘good’ government practices
This year’s theme for the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDRR), which is celebrated on October 13, is focused around governance.
Recognition of the need for good governance remains an important matter for many in our country and beyond. It has been said that good governance is concerned with public institutions conducting public affairs and managing public resources in a manner that promotes the rule of law and the realisation of rights such as civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
In the domain of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), governance is the umbrella under which everything takes place. The existence of public awareness, political will and sufficient capacity are key to making DRR a fundamental principle in all relevant developmental efforts in our country.
It has to be acknowledged that due to our geographical situation, the Seychelles is less exposed to major natural disasters than most of the neighbours in the region such as Mauritius, and Madagascar, or the countries on the African continent. However, this does not mean we should be complacent and allow ourselves to believe that we do not have vulnerabilities. Lessons have been learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic as evidence that we are not.
The government for its part, demonstrated its commitment to taking our vulnerabilities as a small island nation seriously when it enacted the Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Act in 2014. This law established the Department of Risk and Disaster Management (DRDM) as the body responsible for the effective management of disaster through a comprehensive and integrated all-hazard approach.
Since then, the country has experienced a number of significant events that have tested the ability of the organisation to prepare and respond efficiently and effectively. For instance, in 2016, tropical cyclone Fantala damaged infrastructure in the Farquhar atoll, the archipelago’s outer island at a cost of over R100 million.
We need to appreciate that good governance is not only an important ‘pre-requisite’ of sustainable disaster risk management, but that disaster risk management constitutes a core responsibility and capacity of ‘good’ government practices. Disaster risk management needs to link up with processes that aim to deepen the equity, accountability, efficiency and responsiveness of governance institutions in relation to the needs of vulnerable communities.
We cannot emphasise enough the need for a multi-sectoral approach when it comes to DRR. The Seychelles National Integrated Emergency Management Plan NIEMP (2019–2024) provides major guidance as to how we can have a more integrated approach. However, we still have to develop plans, standard operation procedures and ways of working across government that will ensure that risk reduction becomes a concern for everyone.
The failure to prioritise DRR and the resulting absence of its inclusion in country development policies, planning and implementation for instance, will lead to new or elevated patterns of disaster risk, and ultimately an increased risk of the loss of livelihoods, crucial infrastructure and degradation of the natural environment.
Our department has been holding a number of consultative meetings with its partners; of which the Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs has been a major one, since the second half of this year. The discussions have centred around policy, conducting risk profiling, and the preparation of national and local action plans to mainstream decentralised DRR into all relevant processes.
We acquiesce to the fact that effective DRR governance and interventions should include programmes and projects that are concerned with advocating for modern DRR policy, legal and regulatory framework that will provide the foundation upon which strategies can be built to integrate risk reduction into development practice.
Among other things, we acknowledge that in the past there was inadequate focus on public awareness and education activities. To address this, we plan to have broader involvement of partners, including media, politicians and civil society to bring to the forefront issues such as the allocation of funds for DRR, operationalisation of disaster management plans, the establishment of mechanisms to integrate training sessions on DRR as part of official training programmes, the integration of DRR knowledge within existing primary and secondary educational programmes to encourage everyone at all levels to take an active role in DRR, because only together can we take action now to reduce risks.
There is an abundance of tasks that need to be tackled when it comes to DRR in Seychelles. It can only be done if we all join hands. With our new vision of becoming a centre of excellence in disaster risk management among small islands states, we are committed to creating a more disaster resilient Seychelles, together.
We wish you all a Happy International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction!
From DRDM management and staff