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DISASTER RISK REDUCTION: EXPERTS PLEAD FOR STANDARDS AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN MANAGING DISASTER RISK
23 May 2013

GENEVA, 23 May (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) ‑ Auditing and regulatory experts today said that accountability is paramount for all actors in disaster risk reduction, from victims and taxpayers to national Governments, international organizations and civil society.

The experts were discussing disaster risk management standards and accountability for business and citizens as part of the Global Platform on Disaster Reduction, which opened here on 19 May and ends today.

Session moderator Kevin Knight, Chairman, International Standard Organization (ISO) Technical Committee 262, said that Australia now had policies in place to handle risk management, which was a great improvement over the previous practice of simply injecting funds into disaster-affected local authorities, with no apparent change in the status quo.  The new regulations were aimed at developing more resilient facilities and buildings.  The main legislative and regulatory challenge of disaster risk reduction was to strike the right balance between improved resilience and the available financial resources, allocating sufficient funds to the most crucial areas without overspending.

Gijs de Vries of the European Court of Auditors said that accountability was crucial for all concerned.  Funds were sometimes not used effectively, or were used for purposes other than those for which they had been earmarked.  In one country, a satellite-based communication system was still not operational six years after being approved, and the national steering committee had not met for at least five years.  In another country, corruption and waste had been reported with respect to post-tsunami aid.  Elsewhere, audits revealed a lack of flood preparedness, non-compliance with national standards, failure to establish early warning systems and so forth.  International auditing groups had developed guidelines on auditing disaster risk reduction and preventing fraud and corruption, which were unfortunately still prevalent.  It had taken time for the international community to become aware of the importance of accountability.  Particularly in developing countries, auditors needed more assistance and training.

Arife Coşkun of the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) said that her organization had conducted disaster risk reduction studies involving all stakeholder groups and covering all stages of disasters.  The studies showed that there was too much focus on emergencies and not enough on preparation; insufficient coordination among the institutions concerned; and a lack of consultative frameworks for civil society.  In those countries which had recently adopted disaster-related laws, most had not yet been implemented.  Problems of awareness and accountability could be addressed in part by creating an accountability framework at the national and international level and by conducting more public awareness campaigns.

Marc Schaedeli, Head of Nestlé Risk Management, described his company’s reliance on frameworks and standards to better prepare and manage risks in the face of natural hazards.  Nestlé was present in 150 countries, with 468 factories and more than 100,000 suppliers, and it depended on millions of farmers to deliver raw material.  Nonetheless, it could react very quickly in a disaster.  The Nestlé experience showed that emergency and contingency plans should be prepared beforehand, but not in isolation, and that coordination and sound infrastructure were essential to ensuring supply and delivery at crucial times.  “Plans are good, but testing them is more effective,” he said; all new products should pass quality tests before being sold, and the same principle applied to disaster risk reduction.  Testing should be incorporated into the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction, which would also ensure harmonization among the different actors.

Mette Lindahl-Olsson, Head of the Natural Hazards and Critical Infrastructure Section of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, stressed the importance of standards, including the ISO standards on disaster risk reduction and the European Union guidelines on risk assessment.  Standardization helped make all stakeholders work towards the same goals, and international standards should be better used by businesses, institutions and local authorities.  A common language was essential for understanding by all sectors of society.

Lorenza Jachia of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) said that her organization’s work on standards and regulations encompassed global best practices and had produced recommendations on risk management and crisis management in regulatory frameworks.  Recognizing the dual nature of risks, which potentially posed both threats and opportunities, made it possible to envision new mechanisms and tools for managing risk.


For use of the information media; not an official record

M13/018E