Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 119)



Mr Battle

  100. Sarah mentioned about the level of preparedness that needs to be dramatically stepped up. This morning in my constituency the newspapers are full of photographs of the River Wharfe flooding because of heavy rains—a month's rain in a day in Yorkshire for the River Wharfe and the houses were flooded last October. People are still having building work done from flooding the year before. One person commented on the TV, "We have been sitting here and all that happens is that it happens. The Government should stop it happening". That person was asked whether that meant the Government should stop the flooding and the rain. We are not that prepared here, building on the flood plains. What happens to people who do experience disasters after the disaster: do they go back to even more vulnerable livelihoods or do they improve the situation? What support would NGOs and donors give to local people to empower them to avoid it happening again, or do they just move away or stand on the roof until the water has gone down and hope it does not happen again?
  (Professor Davis) The first point about it is that people often recover very slowly and sometimes fail to cope with a disaster. However, there have not been enough studies made of the long-term recoverability of societies. For example, one of the main problems is the indirect consequences of a disaster. If a disaster wipes out a banana crop, what happens to all those people who grow bananas until the crop has grown again? It might take three and a half years for that to happen. Of course, the banana industry will intercept the market share, so that when they do recover the banana trees, they will not get back to where they were before. The port of Kobe in Japan is 15 per cent under its capacity before the earthquake, although port facilities have been completely rebuilt, because Yokohama and other ports have intercepted their market share. That will inevitably have consequences on the workforce. Thus, the indirect consequences of the disaster of course are often catastrophic for communities. We liken it to a ratchet wheel that gets tighter and tighter as a community is pushed back and back by repetitive disasters. So the consequences are a very serious issue. You ask what happens to people. For example, in Bangladesh many of the people in Dhaka in squatter settlements are there because the past cyclones, floods and droughts. They have migrated there because that was their coping mechanism in response to these threats. Although they now contribute to the disaster problem in Dhaka, that was their loophole There was a study made some years ago in Dhaka which indicated that up to 24 per cent of the squatters were there as post-disaster victims who migrated there for that reason. We need to know a lot more about the questions you are raising concerning the dynamics of human behaviour. Sometimes the situation is a lot less optimistic than the reporters suggest.

  101. Is it just a question of studying it or should the donors do something now on working with local people? Are there any examples of proactive work on this?
  (Professor Davis) I personally think it would be a productive improvement if when an agency has an appeal for funding for, say, victims of Hurricane Mitch or the Turkish earthquake, they tell the public that a designated proportion of the money is going to be spent in the long term to assist in long-term recovery. Maybe 10 per cent could be earmarked for that purpose. Long-term rehabilitation and recovery are often starved of resources, whilst relief is often over-provided.

  102. Then we would have to change the rules here because the adverts or the agencies restrict them to just raising money for the earthquake at the time; it is short term and they cannot use the money, if I remember rightly, more longer term.
  (Professor Davis) That is right and that rule was put in place for a good reason, to try and make sure they spent their money in a designated time, but it does stop them using money for longer term inputs.
  (Miss La Trobe) I would like to add a small case study to that. Tearfund's partners in Nicaragua worked with communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch and they helped them to rebuild houses on new land that was not vulnerable; it was away from the risk of flood and volcano. But the communities lacked the capital to begin new economic activities, and so several families just began to migrate back to their old vulnerable land, because that was where they could farm. We think there needs to be a much greater level of support for disaster victims.

  103. I actually visited that project in Nicaragua.
  (Mr Atkins) I am not sure whether you will come to this issue later but it is perhaps relevant here anyway. We can talk about it later if you think that is appropriate. On the question of what donors can do, obviously Tearfund is a medium-sized, voluntary organisation supporting local partnerships, and there is a role for that. I think, from what we have seen and heard in visiting partners and talking with them, that they would say there is a need for the international community to acknowledge the importance of DMP—disaster, mitigation and preparedness—much more and to focus much more resources within the overall development strategy on that. We believe that this should be integrated into longer-term development programmes, but that does not mean it is lost. There is a danger that integration actually means disappears. We do not think, from our discussion with partners, that disaster mitigation and preparedness has nearly a high enough profile yet to prevented it being lost if you just regard it as integrated. It needs to be integrated but to have its own identity within that. The second thing is the linking of that to national development programmes, whether they are poverty reduction strategy programmes or national strategies for sustainable development. Whatever name they go under, there needs to be a clearly identified component on disaster mitigation and preparedness. The third thing is that we have to make sure that one reaches the local level because in the immediate aftermath of a disaster most lives are saved or lost in the first 24 to 48 hours. It is the local community pulling their relatives out from under buildings, pulling them out of flood waters and so on, long before the international community arrives. Unless you can get resources into the local communities, which is a very simple thing, this is not high-cost technology but simple measures, you may have a beautiful national disaster reduction plan but the locals may know absolutely nothing about it. This is what we have discovered in talking to our partners in Central America most recently. It is a big job for the international donor community to beef up the amount of money they give to this within the overall development programme and making sure that it does reach the local level, and does not just stay in the hands of national bureaucracies that may have a wonderful plan and good maps on their wall but actually these are irrelevant to the locals.

Andrew Robathan

  104. I particularly want to turn, leading on from that, to what factors increase vulnerability. You talked about national plans and so on. I am particularly interested in how you can address the factors of increased vulnerability and how, in your disaster mitigation and preparedness plans, you can look at addressing those factors and the structures and systems you might need. Can you lead on from that to what examples there are where this has been successful? If you take Bangladesh or the floods in the deltas of Bangladesh, what has the impact been upstream of deforestation over the foothills of the Himalayas and so on?
  (Miss La Trobe) One of the factors that increases vulnerability is lack of good national government laws and policies on issues such as deforestation and land. Deforestation, as we all know, increases vulnerability through increased risk of flooding and landslides. In Honduras, Hurricane Mitch was made worse because of the massive amount of deforestation that was happening there caused by illegal logging and cattle ranching. The government did have a forestry law in place for 20 years but that was totally obsolete. It really allowed cattle ranchers to deforest as much as they liked. This bad government policy contributes to vulnerability and similarly the lack of a good land policy. This is the case in Honduras as well. A lot of land is concentrated in the hands of the rich and the poor do not really have rights to this land. So they are forced to live in vulnerable areas. Our partners in Honduras worked with communities in the Guymas Region. Before Mitch, they had had such a struggle to obtain any land and when they finally obtained it and started farming there, Mitch wiped out all they had and then they had to start this whole struggle to obtain land again. They only obtained it in the end from the local municipality by blocking the road from Tegucigalpa to San Pedro Sula to protest at the government's inertia. If they had not undertaken that protest, they probably would not have obtained the land. These types of bad policies contribute to vulnerability.

  105. That is a very good point. Could I lead on from that? You say it is rich farmers and they tend to be the people who kill the rain forest for cattle ranching, if I get this right, and they probably exploit the wood as well. One of the things in Central America which I have seen is slash and burn which appears to be for displaced people who are trying to find some land. How does that impact on this?
  (Miss La Trobe) That is a really serious issue as well. Our partners in the Mosquitia region of Honduras have been tyring to teach locals alternative methods to slash and burn because that is destroying the land. They are learning alternative methods. That needs to have a bigger impetus and there needs to be a lot more of this kind of teaching because it is a combination of illegal logging and then farmers coming in. It is often because farmers are poor and they do not have any alternative and they have not been taught other methods.
  (Mr Atkins) That last point is very important. Elsewhere in Latin America there is the same process. You would not have the degree of slash and burn if the poorer sectors of the rural community had legal rights to reasonable quality land. If you have no capital, if you have no land, the only option left open to you is to go further into the rain forest, the virgin territory, and cut down more. The soil erodes very quickly because the poor do not have the money for fertilizers or the training and understanding of appropriate methods to keep up the fertility, so slash and burn goes on and on. What usually happens is that the big ranchers come in behind, buy up the land, or in the case of countries like Colombia, just shoot them off it, and the poor keep going further on. The ranchers just come on behind. If you allowed the poor legal land tenure in the first place on reasonable quality land, you would not get slash and burn. They do not do it for fun; they do it because they have no alternative.
  (Professor Davis) I have a comment concerning success stories. One of the areas where we have seen dramatic progress in the years I have worked in disaster planning, (and I started in the early Seventies), is in warning systems, and particularly in flood warning and cyclone warning systems. For example, Hurricane Michelle, devastated parts of the Caribbean in October of last year. There was a major threat to Cuba which has a remarkably good warning system, and they evacuated somewhere in the order of 600,000 people from Havana and I think there were just 12 deaths. That achievement merited less than half an inch of press reporting in the UK, and yet this was a brilliant success. Then you have got warning systems which DIPECHO—a project of the European Union—have funded in a number of Caribbean countries: Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, where local communities have been taught to manage their entire flood warning system. They have taught hazard-prone communities how to use laptops and have supplied them with the equipment and taught them how to measure the rain gauge data, water flow data, right down to evacuation planning. This is a complete revolution because previously you would have one body generating the information, (such as meteorologists and hydrologists), then passing this warning to intermediaries such as local authorities, and finally to "recipients", the local people to evacuate. Now that is all in one group. It raises other problems such as what happens downstream for the next group and so on. However, these kinds of warning developments are most impressive. I give you another example. I am an architect and my background is very much in strengthening local vernacular buildings against, say, earthquakes or cyclones and flooding. In this field there has been great progress made in teaching local builders how to build more safely. The tragedy is that the civil engineering profession does not take much interest in non-engineered construction. That is a battle which is being fought out in many countries. India, Bangladesh, China, Colombia and Peru have taken a big lead in this whole area of non-engineered construction. If we are to see deaths reduced in many of these building failures, we have got to see more activity in this area. I believe there are success stories in mitigation and preparedness but they are under-reported because that does not make news. Part of the problem is that the public do not know about achievements in risk reduction and the story is one of "gloom and doom". Perhaps the agencies might be able to help here. The World Disasters Report has done a magnificent job in trying to alert people to the need for improved focus on preparedness and mitigation.
  (Mr Walter) I would like to add that it is important to make the point that continuing development as usual will not, in its own right, reduce vulnerability. There are numerous cases where development actually increases vulnerability. There are well documented examples: the Krishna Delta, for example, in India where mangrove swamps which used to act as a break to the storm surges created by cyclones have been cleared for prawn farming and then the prawns, which are a mono-crop, have been destroyed by subsequent cyclones and land reform associated with that has thrown many small-holders into destitution. It is important that both development and humanitarian initiatives look through, as it were, a lens of risk reduction. Picking up on your point, there is a danger of DMP getting lost. It is not a separate sector; it is something which everyone has to take seriously. Poverty alleviation as usual, business as usual, will not necessarily reduce vulnerability.

  106. May I say that I think all the illustrations, development of poverty and environmental problems, are interlinked. Could I ask about one specific case, which some of us saw a couple of years ago which is the flooding in Mozambique. That was enormous and came right down from Zimbabwe and elsewhere. Can you point to what governmental mistakes have been made that increased the vulnerability of Mozambique to flooding; it was not just the Mozambique government but perhaps other governments. Have you studied that at all?
  (Mr Walter) Mozambique is a bit of a success story, certainly in 2000, compared to many other floods. I have data which shows that 45,000 people were actually saved in the rescue phase; two-thirds of them were saved with Mozambican resources—the army, the Red Cross, fire service and private boats. Only 4 per cent of the lives saved in both the 2000 and 2001 floods were saved by international agencies. That is a very powerful demonstration of the need to build national level and local level disaster preparedness capacity. The success of the 2000 response was largely because the government took a lead. They appointed their Foreign Minister to co-ordinate the disaster relief. All the agencies, the UN and 9 separate military air forces, were co-ordinated under the Foreign Minister. That demonstrates that when you have the political will to take a lead, then something will happen. If disaster preparedness and mitigation remain at the level of the environment ministry or some other civil defence ministry, it will not come together. Co-ordination is key. That was led by the government in 2000 in Mozambique. In 2001 it was not quite so good because the floods were further up-country, further away from the capital, which was where a lot of the national expertise was focussed.
  (Professor Davis) You are asking what governments can do. I think that one thing governments need to do—and maybe DFID could help with this—is to encourage good protocols between countries over flood management. For example, one of the causes of the two floods in Mozambique was the release of water from Zambia and so on upstream. Whilst the WMO have good protocols for exchanging information on hurricanes, which is an excellent system, that rarely exists in river systems. An agreement of this nature is needed between Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Of course, there is always the argument that upstream countries dump their surplus water into our country to protect their dams. That may be true. The requirement is to form agreements concerning the exchange of information on water flows and an understanding of how to manage the overall river catchment, which might cross three or four countries. Possibly the UN, pushed by the British Government, can try and get better understandings to prevent repetitions of what happened in Mozambique.

Tony Worthington

  107. You mentioned the percentage of people who have been saved or helped by local initiatives. The perception in this country is that it was all done by helicopters. Do you know the percentage of people who were saved by helicopter?
  (Mr Walter) I could get back to you on that.[5]

  108. There is a serous point to it about how disasters get distorted by the media coverage.

  (Mr Walter) I think there was a distortion in the 2000 floods because the world's media were already in Mozambique because there were four floods; the third one was the big one and the media were already there. These images of helicopters with white South Africans saving black Mozambicans were very powerful and they were the ones that made good news but actually boat owners saved as many, if not more. The helicopters were important subsequently in ferrying food around between all the refugee and displacement centres, but in the lifesaving phase it was local, national and regional resources which made the difference. I have the data here, which I can give you.

  Ann Clwyd: May I say that three of us from this Committee were there at the time. There was a shortage of helicopters and in fact they were scrambling them from South Africa. It if had not been for the South Africans, in fact I think a lot more lives would have been lost. So we were able to see at first hand what went on at that time. As for the kind of co-ordination that you are talking about, I do not think it was quite like that in the early stages. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

Chris McCafferty

  109. You have given the Committee members some graphic illustrations of development activities actually undermining or causing extra vulnerability. Professor Davis has mentioned the need for a dialogue. Is there any dialogue at all going on between centres of excellence and governments actually to educate decision-makers about the problems that can arise from certain types of development which can adversely affect calls for mobility? Is that dialogue taking place at any level at all?
  (Professor Davis) I think this is an interesting issue. I have been on the board of various NGOs, and there is often quite a lot of tension between the development group in an NGO and the disaster community within the same NGO. Sometimes it is to do with the perception that the disaster group are getting more resources; it is at that level. I think the development people within NGOs and also within government are often overwhelmed by their agenda. I was once given an assignment by DFID to go to the various geographical desks of DFID and highlight two issues: one, how to make sure development projects did not increase vulnerability; and, secondly, to make sure that their development projects did not end up in the Bay of Bengal, so that they did not have new roads and bridges being wiped out and so on. To put it mildly, we got a very frosty reception indeed from the development staff because they said, "Look, we are up to here with agenda items. We have to go through every project checking it against a massive agenda such as gender, sustainable environmental factors and so on and so forth, and you are giving us another?". Our response was that we were trying to heighten their awareness of these issues and to see how mitigation could be built into all their planning. I could see their problem: they felt they had such a huge number of factors to consider in all their development planning that it was difficult to add yet another one to the whole process. Is the dialogue continuing? I believe it is because I think that the development community working in government, in the UN and within the NGOs, is becoming increasingly sensitive to the threat that is posed by disasters to all of their work. The very fact that this Committee is considering this issue today is a good example of that. I think it is getting to be rather a healthy dialogue, but there needs to be more of it. The debate needs to be stronger and I think the issues are being gradually recognised by the development community. In a sense, the people advocating preparedness and mitigation are coming from a development standpoint. Undoubtedly the concerns are growing and that is partly due to the lead taken by some of the big NGOs, particularly the Red Cross.

Mr Colman

  110. This follows on in terms of this linkage between development and disaster preparedness and mitigation. One of the areas on which the UK Government is having a round table and on which it is preparing a report for the World Summit on Sustainable Development this September is fresh water and sewage, but you have clearly pointed out that the other area directly related to this is watershed management and the dumping of excess water and likely flooding downstream in the coastal areas, et cetera. Could I ask if anyone on the panel, and obviously particularly Professor Ian Davis, believes that the way in which the work is being done on this report is in fact taking account of what we are discussing here this morning or do you think this has been left out of discussion on fresh water and sewage?
  (Professor Davis) I am not familiar with that activity, I am afraid. I hope it is being taken into account because obviously it is such a key factor. My colleagues in the Flood Research Centre in Middlesex University will always say that you need to consider holistic aspects of a river catchment: pollution control, water supply, flood and land drainage etc. That is one problem and it requires an integrated approach. In Britain I think we are beginning to see that but in many countries it is fragmented in a host of different organisations. To try and get that equation together probably requires the meeting of many disciplines and a great deal of understanding of other people's fields. Of course that must happen, but often it does not happen adequately. I would hope that we could get some input into that. I would be delighted to contribute in any way.
  (Mr Atkins) There are a number of initiatives, as I know you know, going on around the World Summit with the Government having set up five different initiatives, the water initiative being one of those. Our perception to date—and one of my staff is on the steering committee for water—is that fresh water has been the primary focus and particularly the role that the private sector could play in helping deliver and manage water supplies in developing countries. It is necessary to look at that, but that clearly is not enough. We have recently been working with DFID to try to get the whole issue of disaster mitigation and preparedness, particularly the water aspects of that, if you like, on to the agenda, not necessarily within that committee, that working group, but elsewhere. I think it is worth referring to the good things DFID has done. In the Environmental TSB there is mention of the need to do more work on the impact of environmental disasters, on development and so on. What we are less clear about is what has actually happened. There are good words in here. I am not saying that nothing has happened; we are just not clear. It may be something for you to look into more. We think the groundwork is there, the basis is there for doing more, but we are not clear about where it happening.

Mr Khabra

  111. If the advantages of an environmental project are perceived to be far greater than the disadvantages of dealing with the disaster—and there has been criticism of some of those projects being funded by the World Bank or the IMF—and those advantages bring many benefits to the community which is affected by the disaster, how would you balance your views on that?
  (Professor Davis) I think that the answer goes back to risk assessment. I read about the linking of the poverty reduction agenda and the disaster reduction agenda and that goes back to the need for communities that are at risk to conduct really sensible risk assessment processes. Often risk assessment is confined to hazard mapping, dealing with the flood - severity, frequency, duration—and not enough on vulnerability—social vulnerability, building infrastructure vulnerability, economic vulnerability, and environmental vulnerability. I have just been working with the ISDR - the International Strategy for Disaster Relief - which is a UN organisation. We are doing a global survey on mitigation. I have just waded through 70 country reports. Very few of the countries seem to have effective risk assessment in place. That is probably due to political reasons, that people are happier to look at the neutral technical factors causing flooding or high winds and not become too involved in why people are at risk and who put them in a vulnerable location. So there appears to be a disinclination on the part of many governments to push for total risk assessment. But if risk assessment is done, the key element in it would be of overall capacities, thus to survey not just the negatives but all the positives. This dual emphasis has been a very important development in risk assessment by looking at vulnerability and capacity analysis in parallel, so that you not only see the weaknesses of a given society but you see their strengths. These might be local leadership or the memory of older people within a community or the presence of assisting groups such as Tearfund. The need is to devise programmes which start from asking what the capacity of the community is, not from some abstract notion. There is a need for better community-based risk assessment and risk assessment at various levels, so that we really diagnose the problem better. Too often programmes for mitigation and preparedness are devised without adequately diagnosing the problem. It is like conducting a surgical operation without an X-ray, which is very dangerous, and yet that is happening in country after country.

  112. When I think of the impact of climate change, one country comes to my mind, and you have already mentioned Bangladesh with its floods, cyclones and droughts. That has had a disastrous effect on the life of the people. I wonder whether the Government of Bangladesh has a proper policy and proper management to deal with such a disaster. The question is: what specific management and policy weaknesses in developing countries in particular have the greatest impact on vulnerability to climate change, particularly responses to extreme weather events?
  (Professor Davis) My colleagues will have much more to say on that than I have. I was interested in the earlier evidence to this Committee by Dr Huq who referred to the fact that there was a dramatic reduction in cyclone deaths in a more recent cyclone than the 1991 event. Of course, that is partly due to the Bangladesh Government taking disaster mitigation very seriously: good warning systems, better cyclone shelters, mounds where animals are taken during a cyclone and much better management of natural resources within the country. Bangladesh is in many ways a great success story of disaster mitigation. Another place is the Philippines and Colombia, these countries are front-runners. I think Bangladesh has built up a form of "safety-culture", and that is a great tribute to the people there, and particularly to the NGOs. Obviously there are problems: the residual problems, lack of strong, local institutions, lack of political continuity between elections, lack of ethical standards to avoid corruption, for example, in the enforcement of building codes and so on. Such problem are pervasive—and many derive from poverty. I think we should pay tribute to the work of certain countries where great progress has been made. Every time I return to Bangladesh, I am aware of dramatic progress from the time before. Although they have a huge problem, the success in managing disasters with a population of that size in a country not much bigger than Wales is extraordinary.

  113. What sort of co-operation has the Bangladesh Government had with the Government of India? In particular, you mention that there was a dispute about diverting river water and that dispute has been going on for quite a while. It has a more damaging impact on Bangladesh than on India.
  (Professor Davis) I believe that tension continues. In my view, it is high time that the Government of India and the Government of Bangladesh had a much higher level of collaboration. Failures in disaster collaboration simply reflect political tensions.
  (Miss La Trobe) There are a lot of countries where DMP just is not a priority. If they have a disaster management law in place, DMP will not necessary be a part of that and that is something that we have seen in Central America. There was a lack of general knowledge, awareness and planning within the communities and within government for DMP because they just did not see it as a priority. If governments were engaging with disasters, it would seem to be more focussing on the technology. They are quite interested in cyclone warning systems and that sort of thing but they just were not engaging in the grass roots community DMP. So we believe that DMP needs to become a much bigger national, public value incorporated into government level disaster management and development initiatives, as well as into communities.
  (Mr Atkins) May I add something to what you have heard from others, which perhaps needs to be spelt out and that is actually how cheap many of the things that need to be done are. We are talking at the local level about risk management; it costs but it is not necessarily very expensive. We are talking about marking routes to higher ground and just agreeing who will be in charge of X if Y happens. These are very low cost measures at the local level compared with the billions that are pumped into developing countries for other purposes. That is the first thing to be said. We are really not talking rocket science; we are talking about a shift in mind set to do many things that can be very quickly and easily done, if there is a mind to do it. The second point that Professor Davis raised was about political continuity. We have found this over and over again in talking to our partners in other countries, that a particular government will have a push on a particular issue—disaster mitigation and preparedness—and it makes it their project, but the moment they are out of office, the next government deliberately does something different to show that it is different. That points all the more to the need to have local resources because it is the local community organisations that do not change every time there is an election or a change in political flavour, whether it be the churches, the mosques, or the local NGOs. They are there and they do not go away just because there is a political change. That is not to say we do not need national strategies because we do, but it is very important to understand the implications of lack of political continuity and therefore the need to make sure that resources are in a place where they will not suddenly disappear when the mayor is voted out or whatever.
  (Mr Walter) Can I add an example of what good value DMP initiatives can be, taken from last year's World Disasters Report? During the super cyclone in Orissa there were 23 cyclone shelters which the Orissa Government claims saved about 40,000 lives. The budget for these was paid by the German Red Cross. From 1994 to 2002 the budget was DM 6.8 million, which works out, and it is a crude calculation, at approximately US$77 per life saved. After the disaster, the Orissa state government promised the next of kin of every dead relative US$1600 in compensation.

Mr Colman

  114. I was surprised to hear your condemnation of the democratic process. Have you any examples where dictators or single party states are much better at disaster preparedness than democracies?
  (Mr Atkins) It is not a condemnation of the democratic process; it is a recognition that many of the countries we work in do not have a professional civil service. There is a very big difference.

  115. You would still say that if you get a change of government because the elections bring in different priorities, you have to start again?
  (Mr Atkins) It can even happen here.

  116. I am pleased that it happened here in 1997! Some of my colleagues may differ. Do you have any examples that by actually having, as you say, a continuity of political control, you would get better disaster preparedness?
  (Mr Atkins) I think if a plan is a good plan, it is good that it can be continued. Certainly it does not have to stop just because the government changes. Certainly, even in discussions in Nicaragua where there was considerable criticism of government plans, there was still an attempt to carry on the good work from one government to another. I am not saying nobody is trying, but it does make it very difficult, particularly when you do not have professional civil servants, and so many of the local political actors and the state functionaries change every time the president changes. That is more the problem.

  117. That happens in the United States?
  (Mr Atkins) Yes, it does.

  118. I am sorry to press you but could you have examples where in fact by not having a change, there has been a more solid preparedness in place?
  (Mr Atkins) I am struggling to think of one, if I am honest. They must exist.

  119. You have both made the same point.
  (Mr Atkins) I am not a world expert on this. We could probably find you cases. What is clear is that if it is at local level, historic memory, the memory of people who have lived through past floods, rather than a mayor who has just been brought in to serve for four years and goes again, you are much more likely to get that continuity, for very obvious reasons. It is not a political statement but just a fact of life.
  (Mr Walter) The example of Cuba's preparedness for Hurricane Michelle in November last year raised shows that the continuity of political leadership has led to a relationship of trust between the government and communities which is essential for early warning and disaster preparedness to work. The key word is "trust" there.
  (Professor Davis) When we train national leaders in disaster planning, and we do that continually, one of the aspects we often highlight in setting up national disaster plans is the need for them to build political consensus. We propose that they devote time to consult with the opposition when working in democratic systems to see if they cannot fully agree on disaster planning, so that this does not become a political football. For example, in America, there is a very interesting disaster mitigation initiative which was started under the Clinton administration called "Project Impact", which was the concept of safe communities. There were to be two per state in all of the American states, (which included places like Puerto Rico). These safe communities were conceived to be a bringing together of private sector, NGOs and government, to say, "We will collectively make your whole town safe so that business and people will want to come and live here, because they are not going to be washed away in future flooding". This project went ahead during the Clinton administration and under the Bush administration it was changed because the new administration wanted different policies for FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency). An important change happened in so far as it became more state controlled, so there was a policy of giving more authority and the project changed its name. In a sense, it looks as if the same policy is going to continue but it is going to be called something different. This has been quite an important correction. Some of the centralisation present in the original project has now been given over to more indigenous control. One of the key policies that we have been advocating is far higher levels of devolution to local communities. Disaster planning has to work very well for the community level but also at the centre. It is a top-down and bottom-up process in a synchronised, integrated system. I just feel that perhaps the political problems should not arise if there is better advocacy and better preparation done by the people advocating change.

5   During floods in Mozambique in 2000-01, 53,000 people were rescued from drowning. Of these, 63 per cent were saved by boat and 37 per cent by aircraft. Furthermore, national assets (Mozambican military, Red Cross and boat owners) rescued 65 per cent of those saved. Back

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