Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6223
    17 July 2006

    ECOSOC Holds Panels on Process from Relief to Development, Risk Reduction Strategies in Recovery Process

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 14 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council this morning held two panels, in which the first discussed the process from relief to development, hearing panellists telling their recovery and reconstruction experiences in Indonesia, Guatemala, Pakistan and other countries, and the second debated risk reduction strategies in the recovery process, hearing about measures for reduction of risks and steps taken in recovery efforts following natural disasters.

    Prasad Kariyawasam (Sri Lanka), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, introducing the first panel on "relief to development", stressed the importance of the international community's support during the recovery period, to Governments and to civilians.  Post-disaster recovery needs were daunting and took years to meet.

    James Morris, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP), the moderator of the panel, said transition was a combination of relief and development approaches and, hopefully, relief activities had the seeds of development included.

    Eric Morris, United Nations Recovery Coordinator in Aceh, said early recovery and reconstruction work required the same efforts as the first phase of the recovery, because of the risk of jeopardizing the whole effort.  Although the conditions had improved in Aceh, it was not enough.

    Eduardo Aguirre, Manager of the Vice-Presidency and Coordinator of the National Reconstruction Programme of Guatemala, said that, as a result of natural disasters, the reconstruction programme was attempting to increase decentralization through various means including local commissions, which attempted to increase local participation at all levels.  Despite the great tragedy experienced, very positive results had been achieved.

    Nadeem Ahmed, Vice-Chairman, Earthquake and Rehabilitation Authority, Pakistan, said that the earthquake in Pakistan had affected more than 3 million people.  The whole population living in the area was now vulnerable to problems attached to the earthquake.  The United Nation had been the leading organization in the relief and reconstruction efforts.

    Sally Fegan-Wyles, Director, United Nations Development Group Office, said that between relief and reconstruction, there was a period where relief was maintained, and it was necessary to prepare for reconstruction, and it had taken the United Nations a while to recognize that.

    In the context of the interactive dialogue, a wide range of questions and comments were made, including on the need for the United Nations to better coordinate, collaborate and more efficiently support countries in transition from relief to development; that funding for recovery efforts needed to be secured, also while the transition evolved, and that the question of predictable multi-year financing should be tackled; and the need for strong coordination mechanisms during the recovery phase, among other things.

    Speaking in the course of the interactive dialogue were the representatives of Finland (on behalf of the European Union), Bangladesh, Canada, Pakistan, Mexico and Guinea.

    In the second panel discussion, on the risk reduction strategies in the recovery process, panellists explained measures for reduction of risks and steps taken in recovery efforts following natural disasters

    Léo Mérorès (Haiti), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, introducing the panel, said Haiti had integrated risk-reduction activities, in order to increase the resistance to disasters.  The Government had implemented sensitization programmes for the population, to better prepare them for the risks.

    Kathleen Cravero, Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the moderator of the panel, said there was no better time to pay attention to risk reduction than during the recovery process.  However, there was often resistance to reducing risks as part of the process, due to the need for speed in recovery. 

    Mohamed Omer Mukheir, Head of the Disaster Preparedness and Response Department, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said risk reduction in recovery needed coordinated effort by all actors.  Recovery lessons had shown that there was a need for more effective community participation in the recovery process.

    P. K. Mishra, Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority of India, said, on the topic of how Governments could include risk reduction in national recovery processes, that the issue was what the main problems were in doing this.  It was easy to say that disaster reduction should be incorporated, but it was difficult to do so effectively, as there were certain constraints.

    David Peppiatt, Head, ProVention Consortium, said ProVention Consortium had made a series of empirical studies in response to natural disaster recovery.  The lessons learned had been compiled and many of the lessons and studies had showed that they opened windows of opportunities in the recovery and reconstruction process.

    In a brief interactive dialogue, questions were posed on such issues as, why lessons were not learnt; that Member States should work closely with the United Nations to ensure that international disaster-reduction risk processes were as effective as possible; and the importance of incorporating it in long-term developmental planning, among other things.

    Speaking in the debate were the representatives of Finland (on behalf of the European Union), Canada, Japan, and Mexico.

    When the Council meets at 3 p.m., it will start its humanitarian affairs segment and hold a general discussion on special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.

    Panel on Post-Disaster Recovery

    PRASAD KARIYAWASAM (Sri Lanka), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, in his introductory remarks, said that, like many countries affected by the Asian earthquake and tsunami, Sri Lanka was fully engaged in post-disaster recovery and reconstruction.  He stressed the importance of the international community's support during the recovery period, to governments and to civilians.  Post-disaster recovery needs were daunting and would take years to meet. 

    JAMES MORRIS, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP), moderating the panel, in his introductory statement, said it was a very important conversation that would be had that morning.  The World Bank had issued a report a few weeks ago, which analysed change in weather patterns, in issues related to natural phenomena and disasters, and which said that these were increasing significantly, with significant increased risk to populations.  The consequence of these changes would be enormous.  WFP was working in 60 countries that were in some stage of post-crisis transition.  Transition was a combination of relief and development approaches, and hopefully relief activities had the seeds of development included.  A better job had to be done in tackling the causes of food insecurity. 

    ERIC MORRIS, United Nations Recovery Coordinator in Aceh, said early recovery and reconstruction work required the same efforts as the first phase of the recovery because of the risk of jeopardizing the whole effort.  Since closing the missing element in transition was a challenge, the actors should be quick in closing the gap created between the different phases of recovery.  In Aceh, where he had been working, nine months after the tsunami, there were 50,000-300,000 people still living in tents, which was unacceptable.  Although the conditions had improved in Aceh, it was not enough.  The issue of logistics was another challenge faced in Aceh, where road infrastructure had been destroyed, creating obstacles to transportation.  Aceh's recovery efforts had suffered, because of the lack of adequate management.  The provisional management's capacity was not sufficient to fully run the coordination of the recovery efforts, because of the 30-year-old conflict.  Recovery and reconstruction efforts needed concerted efforts of the United Nations agencies and that of the Government.  With the help of the Government, the principle of equity and justice had been established in terms of housing and land distribution.

    EDUARDO AGUIRRE, Manager of the Vice-Presidency and Coordinator of the National Reconstruction Programme, Government of Guatemala, said as a result of natural disasters including Tropical Storm Stan, the reconstruction programme was attempting to increase decentralisation through various means including local commissions which attempted to increase local participation at all levels, allowing civil society and the Government to develop governmental plans that gave priority to various needs.  The national reconstruction plan had fundamental pillars including social integration and economic reactivation.  Prevention and mitigation of disasters had been enhanced.  The slogan was "Transformative Reconstruction from, for, and With the People".  Despite the great tragedy experienced, very positive results had been achieved.

    NADEEM AHMED, Vice-Chairman, Earthquake and Rehabilitation Authority, Pakistan, said that the earthquake in Pakistan had affected more than 3 million people.  The whole population living in the area was now vulnerable to problems attached to the earthquake.  The Government was looking at the hardest part of recovery, which was the reconstruction of infrastructure by building roads, schools and government offices.  Regional authorities mainly dealt with the relief and rehabilitation efforts.   The organizations were devoted to early relief efforts rather than the reconstruction programme.  The United Nation had been the leading organization in the relief and reconstruction efforts.  The work done by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was worth mentioning.  The mind-set of the population waiting for aid distribution should be stopped and a timetable had to be set to end such practices.  The recovery and reconstruction should be replaced by a sustainable development strategy.

    SALLY FEGAN-WYLES, Director, United Nations Development Group Office, said that, between relief and reconstruction, there was a period where relief was maintained, and it was necessary to prepare for reconstruction, and it had taken the United Nations a while to recognise that this was a distinct phase which should be treated in particular.  The things which had happened in the past few years had to be captured in order to formalise them and provide that kind of support in a more predictable manner.  In this phase, there were a number of challenges, including the need to provide strong coordination support; the ability to raise funds for early recovery activities in order to avoid a gap; and the provision of the right type of technical advice and assistance, with a clear strategic framework for early recovery.  Progress was being made in the right direction, and there was a need for continued support from the international community in order to build on what was already acquired and to build in the right way.

    Interactive Dialogue

    In the context of the interactive dialogue, a wide range of questions and comments were made, including the need for the United Nations to better coordinate, collaborate and more efficiently support countries in transition from relief to development; that funding for recovery efforts needed to be secured also while the transition evolved, and that the question of predictable multi-year financing should be tackled; the need for strong coordination mechanisms during the recovery phase; the steps taken by the United Nations system to conduct integrated post-disaster needs assessments; that consolidated appeals could include early recovery programming, but that this should be separated from priority life-saving activities; how the United Nations system was coping with the recent spate of natural disasters; and what lessons had been learnt from coordination between Government and civil and political rights. 

    Speaking in the course of the interactive dialogue were the representatives of Finland (for the European Union), Bangladesh, Canada, Pakistan, Mexico and Guinea.

    ERIC MORRIS, United Nations Recovery Coordinator in Aceh, said a number of initiatives had been taken by several actors for the livelihood programmes in Aceh.  What remained now was very heavy investment for the reconstruction of Aceh to be made.

    NADEEM AHMED, Vice-Chairman, Earthquake and Rehabilitation Authority, Pakistan, said that a cash injection immediately had vitalised the recovery efforts in Pakistan.  Early recovery was when there could be structured livelihood recovery programmes, and there were programmes to this effect in Pakistan.  A timeline could not be laid down as to when to start this, but monetarism at the outset had proved to be of significant advantage.  Developing a disease early-warning system was also of considerable benefit.  The greatest help in recovery efforts was from the non-governmental organization community, which was good, fast, and smart.  It was also important to keep roads open in order to bring aid in more easily.  There was a need for a comprehensive strategic framework, which should be evolved by the national authorities, as they were the ones with the clearest vision of what was required.  The relief operations should be coordinated, integrated and synergised, as this would increase their effect.

    EDUARDO AGUIRRE, Manger of the Vice-Presidency and Coordinator of the National Reconstruction Programme of Guatemala, said that Guatemala had been a victim of natural disasters and armed conflict for many years.  If there was no coordination among the non-governmental organizations coming to help the population, there would be a duplication of efforts.  The important areas where assistance was especially needed might not get a sufficient share because of the lack of coordination.  The national plan of action for decentralization had been strengthened to respond and close the gap.  The plan would also allow the full participation of civil society.

    JAMES MORRIS, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP), said that it had been an extraordinary discussion, focussed on tough decisions which affected the lives of many every day across the world.  WFP worked very hard on not affecting markets or local supplies or prices.  It was eager to encourage markets, and to support those with virtually nothing to re-enter the economic cycle and become producers and consumers.  It was a very tough issue.  The leverage of resources invested was often more effective than money spent to save lives, but the humanitarian imperative remained the strongest.  The centrality of Government leadership and developing national frameworks to respond to disasters had been raised, as had been the special needs and the role women could play, the importance of local communities and civil response, the need for accountability, and many other issues. 

    Panel on Risk Reduction Strategies in Recovery Process

    LEO MERORES (Haiti), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said Haiti had been facing a series of natural disasters and a situation of civil urgency, which had annihilated the progress achieved in development and destroyed the people's means of subsistence.  For that reason, reconstruction efforts were now underway and they were supported by the United Nations, the World Bank and other actors.  However, experience had shown that natural disasters such as hurricanes could occur repeatedly.  Haiti had integrated risk reduction activities in order to increase the resistance to disasters. The Government had implemented sensitization programmes for the population to better prepare them for the risks.

    KATHLEEN CRAVERO, Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), moderating the session, in an introductory statement, said recovery could not simply mean physical reconstruction, as this could aggravate previous situations of risk.  There was no better time to pay attention to risk reduction than during the recovery process.  However, there was often resistance to reducing risks as part of the process, due to the need for speed in recovery.  Effective risk reduction and recovery required attention to be given to poor communities and women, among others, who were often left aside during recovery processes.  

    MOHAMED OMER MUKHEIR, Head of the Disaster Preparedness and Response Department, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said risk reduction in recovery needed coordinated efforts by all actors.  There was insufficient priority in relation to other recovery needs which dropped off the recovery agenda.  The risk reduction in recovery focused on immediate risk rather than vulnerability.  Providing for improved livelihoods when infrastructure was damaged was a challenge.  The other challenges included the restoration of livelihoods, sustainable shelter, building human capacity for risk management and recovery and building on community capacity and resilience, among other things.  Recovery lessons had shown that there should be a need for more effective community participation in the recovery process; and working through Red Cross local branches and local non-governmental organizations would provide better results for the disaster-affected population.

    P. K. MISHRA, Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority of India, said, on how Governments could include risk reduction in national recovery processes, that the issue was what the main problems in doing this were.  It was easy to say that disaster reduction should be incorporated, but it was difficult to do so effectively as there were certain constraints.  Experience showed that there had been limited success in this.  Risk reduction initiatives had greater acceptability (by Governments, NGOs and civil and civil society), speed and effectiveness during post-disaster scenarios.  Factors such as governance, institutional structure, external environment and political will determined the pace and efficacy of such initiatives.  Factors leading to success included a lean and efficient structure, selection of committed personnel, a professional approach and operational flexibility, organisational interlinkages and optimal use of existing structures, involvement of expertise and specialised knowledge of institutions and individuals, and commitment of the Government at the highest level. 

    DAVID PEPPIATT, Head, ProVention Consortium, said ProVention Consortium had made a series of empirical studies in response to natural disaster recovery.  The lessons learned had been compiled and many of the lessons and studies showed that they opened windows of opportunities in the recovery and reconstruction process.  But experience had shown that risk reduction measures were seldom factored into the recovery process.  Many development policies were forgotten during the relief and recovery process.  The Millennium Development Goals, for example, were left aside during that process. The recovery projects were often too short to address projected length of recovery.  Disaster risk reduction was a long-term process that required long-term planning and system-wide support.

    Interactive Debate

    Speaking in the interactive debate, questions were posed on such issues as why lessons were not learnt; that Member States should work closely with the United Nations to ensure that international disaster reduction risk processes were as effective as possible; the importance of incorporating it in long-term developmental planning; how to collectively overcome the need to demonstrate quick results; and the need to keep responses in line with reality.

    Speaking in the debate were the representatives of Finland for the European Union, Canada, Japan, and Mexico.

    P.K. MISHRA, Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority of India, said that sharing experience in the work of relief and reconstruction would be helpful.  The reconstruction of houses in rural areas was rapid while in urban areas the planning and reconstruction process had been long, which earned the criticism of the media. 

    DAVID PEPPIATT, Head, ProVention Consortium, said on financial incentives, the key role was for international financial institutions and bilateral donors to look at providing better rates of development assistance on loans financing risk reduction.  Recovery and reconstruction was a huge line of growing business for bank lending.  Humanitarian principles and practice did not always mesh well with risk reduction, and this was due to various reasons. 

    KATHLEEN CRAVERO, Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said disaster risk reduction should address most vulnerable sectors of the society.  Governments and other actors should contribute in advance to prevent and deal effectively with any natural disaster. 

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