Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
TUESDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2002
140. Is the private sector involved in that?
(Professor Davis) Not enough is the short answer.
Occasionally we have had private sector people apply to take the
course but, no, they are outside the loop.
141. Where would they go to get their training?
(Professor Davis) I do not know where they are trained
but they certainly do not get it from Cranfield and that is clearly
a significant gap. We have often had people query why are we not
sitting down next to insurers or next to people from construction
companies or investment companies and I think that is a weakness.
DFID and the FCO are funding government officials, occasionally
NGO people, to come to these courses but they are certainly not
providing the funding for the private sector, probably because
the private sector would not regard our course as being particularly
useful for them, if they are aware of it.
142. Plainly if you do believe there is another
course that we should be aware of we could ask them to come in
and that would be very helpful to us. If it is possible, perhaps
an invitation could be extended to one or more of this Committee
to be able to have a sample, if you like, in summer school?
(Professor Davis) We would be delighted to welcome
you to our next course.
143. In order of priority can I ask what other
measures should be put in place alongside early warning systems
to help prevent loss of life from natural disasters? You have
got a very interesting risk reduction chain in your evidence and
over on the left-hand side you have got development of national
disaster management systems and then a whole series of other things
(Professor Davis) Yes.
144. Would you like to put that in order as
to what you think the next moves are? If the other members of
the panel have not had a copy of thisHave they?
(Professor Davis) No, they have not.
145. Perhaps the clerk could just pass it on
to them because there is a menu of options there which have been
proposed. Could I ask you first, Professor Davis, what do you
think is the order of priority for the other measures that you
put forward in your document? It is on page two.
(Professor Davis) I use the metaphor of a chain because
disaster mitigation measures need to be very carefully integrated
and the chain idea brings the idea of the "weakest link".
Some of those parts of the chain are weak links at present. Insurance
is particularly weak and yet it is potentially a very strong link.
I also wanted to emphasise the relationship of measures. If, for
example, you take Gujarat at the present time, they are building
earthquake resistant houses and those houses are incorporating
a new building code which has been implemented. It requires training
on the part of craftsman and builders to apply that new building
code but it also requires public awareness on the part of the
occupants of the houses to understand what those measures are.
For example, they are strengthening buildings by putting in cross
walls, or sheer walls. Those walls are very vital for the strength
of the house. If the people who live in the house are not told
the structural function of the wall they will demolish it because
they have a bigger family or some other reason. Here there is
a clear link between a land use planning control, a building bylaw,
a training programme and public awareness and yet it is rare to
find anyone seeing that connection. Perhaps one of the points
I was making with this chain was who is going to co-ordinate mitigation
because, whilst relief is well co-ordinated normally in disasters
with national disaster co-ordinators, I have never come across
anybody co-ordinating mitigation. Maybe there is a good reason
for that, because it is so broad and so big that it would be a
burden for anybody to do it. However, governments could set up
some kind of task force to try to get linkages where linkages
are needed in the system. That is another of my proposals to DFID,
that they might initiate some kind of study to see how mitigation
is managed in country and how it can be better managed so that
these kinds of crucial linkages are made. At the moment I have
never seen those linkages made. When I highlight the issue to
government officials they are often perplexed as to how to achieve
such links. In the order of importance, if a country is very poor
they might do the cheapest things first. Public awareness is a
relatively cheap element. You can get disaster training into schools
relatively cheaply through the existing curriculum. Iran teaches
earthquake preparedness in every single school in the country
and that has not required a vast amount of money, it has required
the Ministry of Education working with the earthquake specialists
to synchronise it. Since every child in Iran is taught this subject,
with over half the population being under 16 there is a fair chance
of that getting key messages to the whole community. I think a
lot of these public awareness issues could be easy. Mr Atkins'
comment was very interesting and some of these measures are relatively
cheap. In Australia they will paint flood levels on lamp posts.
It only takes a geography teacher and a pot of paint and some
good accurate information to be able to mark the 1979 or the 1885
flood level and he takes out his class of geography kids to explain
the significance and there is a useful vertical risk map in the
community. You could start with the cheap things and move up to
the more expensive elements later. The most expensive things will
be the structural measures, such as flood protection measures,
and the strengthening of the houses. I am a great believer in
addressing the softer issues before reaching the harder ones because
too often countries have said they cannot afford mitigation and
the message is "you can afford it" because the basic
elements of risk reduction are generally affordable.
(Miss La Trobe) I just want to say that Tearfund very
much think community training in DMP is important and communities
can prepare their own response to a disaster if they know how
to do that. We have produced some literature. This one is on improving
food security but we are producing one at the moment on disaster
mitigation and preparedness as a whole. It is very, very simple
but it teaches communities the types of measures they need to
have in place and how to respond in a disaster because often there
may be early warning but if communities do not know what to do
when that early warning comes that is when you get trouble. This
is very simple but it is actually very effective.
(Mr Atkins) On the principle of doing what you can
do before trying what you cannot, I think there are a number of
international policy processes which could be made much more effective
for disaster mitigation and preparedness. I am thinking of the
PRSP process, which obviously you are aware of, and I am thinking
of the World Summit coming up. These are opportunities, pegs if
you want, to raise not just local awareness but national government
awareness, international awareness, and I think it would be a
shame if we missed those opportunities. If the Committee thinks
it is worthwhile I would like to appeal that there be a stronger
emphasis perhaps of the British Government as we approach the
World Summit on the issue of disaster mitigation and preparedness
and also a greater influence brought to bear on national PRSPs.
This is a tricky one. We have all said we are against conditionality,
yet we also have our partners in places like Honduras, Nicaragua,
Guatemala, saying "we went along to the PRSP process consultation,
we put forward our proposals on mitigation and none of it appeared
in the plan". There is a job to be done, if you like, in
encouraging national governments to really listen to what some
of their own people and the civil society are saying about mitigation
and to take that seriously. I think we can support that process
through saying those things, where appropriate, around PRSPs.
The last thing I would say, and it applies to the earlier question
of is it climate change or other things causing the problems we
are seeing, to a degree it does not matter too much because what
needs to be done is the same thing whatever the cause. Whether
it is climate change or not, do not cut your forests down. Whether
it is climate change or not, you need better management of your
water. In a sense, we are saying we just need more of the same
but we need it much faster and much bigger because climate change
is going to make it all much worse, in crude terms. It is not
big, new ideas, it is stuff people have been saying for a long
time and it just now needs to happen.
(Ms Helmer) One of the things that I find so fascinating
in dealing with climate change from a development and humanitarian
perspective is the chain of different actors and expertise dealing
with it and the different cultures behind it and that is what
complicates matters so much. I have seen a similar chain dealing
with the weather forecastinformation of satellites, of
changes in weather patterns and how to bring this information
down to community level and where the weakest link in the chain
is. A met service official would look at that chain totally different
from a community based development officer and they still do not
know how to communicate with each other because the met service
would say "we need more data" meaning to say he will
look for the solution in his own sphere of capacities. That is
one of the key problems we are dealing with linking climate change
with humanitarian development issues, that in our complicated
society we are not used to looking over the bridge and looking
at the capacities of others, we still tend to find solutions in
what we are good at, whether you are a met service man, a disaster
study specialist or a community development person. That is one
of the problems we have to deal with. Sometimes it is cheaper
to hide behind your models of what climate change might do to
a region than go out on the ground and see what priorities communities
have. If we strive to make that link, that is where we can make
146. I would like to come back to the relationship
between local and external relief efforts. We have touched on
this several times and we have had the very good example of Mozambique
and the effectiveness of the local effort rather than the external
effort saving people. I think there is some evidence that the
external relief assistance often creates parallel structures to
the local initiatives, particularly in the provision of health
care, of field hospitals, supply of pharmaceuticals and so on,
with the result that the local community structures are probably
left weaker and perhaps more vulnerable afterwards. Would you
like to give your thoughts on how donors can ensure that their
relief efforts do not undermine the local disaster preparation
and mitigation efforts? Have you got any examples of donors actually
strengthening local organisations and structures and then working
through them when disasters strike?
(Ms Helmer) Talking from our own experience, we have
capacities at local level with our volunteer organisations there.
It is crucial that the local organisations are involved in the
programmes. I do not know how to say more on that. This is how
we always go through national societies and call in expertise
from our worldwide network at their request. Maybe Jonathan can
say more about that.
(Mr Walter) To answer your first point about how international
donors could avoid undermining local capacities, I think there
is a tendency which continues, which has been highlighted in the
DEC evaluation of the British agencies' response to the Gujarat
earthquake, that external supplies, external consultants and experts
continue to be flown into disaster zones and in many cases in
India, for example, local materials, local contractors, local
business should be and can be supported more with money from international
sources and that would strengthen the indigenous capacity to respond
next time. If you keep flying in experts, consultants and materials
you are wasting money and you are undermining the local markets.
I think one sort of concrete tangible aim which the Committee
might consider looking at is to set local procurement targets
so that you might have an aim to buy ten per cent or 20 per cent
of the materials and labour required for any particular disaster
response at the local level so that not only are people's livelihoods
enhanced immediately during the recovery phase but also so that
their capacity is left slightly stronger for the next disaster.
(Mr Atkins) I think we can see a trend happening within
the relief agencies, and bear in mind Tearfund does both long-term
development and short-term emergency relief. The trend over the
last few years has been, where possible, to work with local partners
in doing the relief work as well as the long-term development.
I think that is beginning to happen elsewhere as well so the first
response is not "Can we fly in a team?" but rather "Who
do we already know on the ground who we could help to respond
to this?" In recent cases, we did not send a team to Honduras
in Hurricane Mitch, we worked entirely through local partners.
In the recent earthquake in El Salvador, a couple of years later,
exactly the same. In Gujarat we sent out a team to advise local
partners, but pulled them out when they were no longer needed.
We see that trend happening. What we need to be aware of though,
is that in some circumstances, and maybe they are becoming increasingly
rare, because of the nature of a catastrophe or a conflict, say
if it is an ethnic conflict, all of the people you might otherwise
have worked through have actually had to leave or been destroyed
or whatever. In those cases you face a very stark choice: do you
go in with your own people or do you stay out and not contribute?
It is a genuine dilemma. I think the long-term aim has to be if
you must go in and if there is nobody you can work through locally
at least to build up the capacity of people while you are there
so that when your ex-pat or whatever team withdraws, there is
local capacity in place for the future. Those are difficult operational
(Professor Davis) Just to comment on this issue. I
remember a minister in India who was responsible for disaster
planning once said to me "What skills do you have in the
UK and what materials do you have in the UK to help in disasters
which we have not got in our country?" and I said "I
do not think any". So he said "Why do you people keep
on coming and why do you keep on sending stuff? When we ask for
money you send stuff". I said "Perhaps it is due to
the dynamics of our agencies which may be able to locate materials
faster through their UK stockpiles than they might for local purchase".
He said "I think we have got to put a stop to this because
we could be stimulating local commerce by local purchase. Cash
really is highly effective". He also spoke about the growing
strength of Indian consultants who can do excellent work. I feel
that in coming years there will be a revolution in this area with
fewer flights going off from Stansted at night laden up with disaster
assistance if local stockists can be built into the equation.
One of the useful things which could happen is in these highly
disaster prone areas is there could be a study of local resources
available there and the agencies will not, therefore, need to
spend a huge amount of money, and DFID also, in funding these
very expensive flights to send materials. On the subject of personnel,
I remember spending two weeks with an unnamed agency in a training
course on disaster planning and this agency sends its teams in
even if there is no local counterpart, and they have done that
as a matter of policy for many years. There was hardly any mention
of government in the entire two week workshop. I recall in my
summing up I said "There has been a missing discussion here
and that is your relationship with the host government" and
the agency's staff responded "Well, that is because we have
no contact with them. We arrive, we set up shop, we distribute
aid and we go". So immediately all the resource team said
"And what then will happen following all your efforts?where
are the stakeholders to maintain this?" There was very little
concern on their part on this issue. In India, China, the Philippines,
Latin America, and South Asia, such strong capacity has developed
that there is now a very different pattern than in so many African
countries. Gradually there is going to be a declining role for
British expertise and a declining role for British products. Perhaps
the British expertise will be more involved in training and capacity
building to strengthen local capacities. It is here that the shift
will occur. Your question is a very good one because there are
these paradigm shifts which are going to have to happen. They
should have happened a long time ago. They have also got to happen
in the policies of DFID in terms of responding to these events
and how to strengthen local capacity when they really have a tremendous
opportunity to do it, but of course there will have to be pre-planning
for that to happen.
147. Is it not a dilemma sometimes, particularly
for food aid going in? Yes, of course you do not want to undermine
local agriculture but on the other hand there are thousands of
starving people. How do you resolve that?
(Professor Davis) By very effective needs assessments.
The assessments of needs will have to happen before anything is
sent and Clare Short has been quite right to emphasise "we
are not sending anything until there has been an accurate local
assessment undertaken". The assessment is crucial. It has
got to be accurate and it has got to be endorsed and ratified.
Of course, a group like DFID are getting assessments coming in
from all directions and they can quickly work out the overall
picture. If the assessments are accurate there is less opportunity
for that kind of problem to occur. The assessment would also take
into account local capacities and what damage dumping a lot of
food aid might do to local stockists, local suppliers, retail
outlets and so on.
148. Can I follow that through with one particular
question. Are there any plans for disaster mitigation and preparedness
to be included in the National Action Plans for Adaptation?
(Professor Davis) Could you clarify National Action
Plans? Are you talking about adaptation to climate change?
Mr Battle: Yes.
(Professor Davis) In reading the material for this
Committee and studying the evidence so far I suspect that there
is a need to synchronise that whole process. I would like to know
a lot more about how those adaptive plans can synchronise with
this process. I did not see enough evidence that it had happened.
That seemed to be yet another area of development which was going
on parallel railway lines without key links being made. Adaptive
behaviour which is referred to must include all these coping strategies
and mechanisms and they have got to become one process.
(Ms Helmer) One of the worries I have about the negotiation
of national adaptation programmes which started under COP7 for
the LDC fund, is that too much time is going into negotiations
at global UN level. I think some countries, like the UK and a
few others, could start to make the trend at a lower, bilateral
level to develop the ideas of what a national adaptation programme
should and should not be and then put it into the argument. It
would be better if we had more cases that could be brought into
that debate. I totally agree with what Professor Davis is saying,
that from the disaster management perspective there is a lot of
experience that could be brought into it which is not happening
at the moment.
149. The Committee is going to Ghana and Nigeria
in early March and it would be very useful if you are able to
give us any evidence of what is happening in terms of those two
countries' National Action Plans for Adaptation in terms of dealing
with disaster mitigation and preparedness. I am thinking particularly
in terms of the south of the country as I think you said 60 strategies
over the last period and you were quite critical of them. If it
is possible, if necessary on a confidential basis, to provide
us with information, any of you, on the situation there and the
PRSP as well that would be very helpful.
(Mr Atkins) If I can just make a point about that,
about the number of different strategies that there are. Something
we are hearing from our partners is that they are being consulted
to death as members of civil society on one strategy after another.
It is good that they are being consulted, but many of these strategies
should be one and the same strategy. It is not a new thought to
you and I know DFID has been doing some good work on how PRSPs,
National Strategies for Sustainable Development, should actually
be coherent. I think we need a lot more of that.
Chairman: That is a very good point and
a good point, I suspect, on which to conclude. Can I thank you
very much for coming to give us some excellent really very helpful
evidence which has been very much appreciated. Thank you very
much for giving us your time this morning.