The Commonwealth Secretariat uses networks and technical expertise from across the Commonwealth to support governments to minimize the impact of disasters and develop new strategies to ensure the lives citizens continues to improve. The programme takes an integrated approach at national, regional and international levels to strengthen disaster management and risk reduction through technical assistance and institutional capacity building.
In November 2005, the Communiqué of the Malta Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) included two paragraphs addressing the Natural Disasters and Humanitarian Assistance calling for:
“…. action to strengthen disaster management through increased capacity for disaster preparedness, early warning systems, risk management and post-disaster recovery and reconstruction”.
Implementation of this mandate is co-ordinated by the Governance and Institutional Development Division (GIDD) in collaboration with other departments and funded by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CTFC). A programme has been developed for member countries to work together in capacity building for disaster risk reduction and response management.
The Secretariat has a long track record in providing technical assistance including responding to member states’ requests for support in times of disaster, and in addressing their vulnerability to the impacts of future events.
This has included, in the Asia Pacific regions:
Though disaster-related work is not separately identified in the Secretariat’s strategic plan, it has been an important element within some of the recent interventions following the events of Hurricane Ivan – which badly affected Jamaica and devastated 90 per cent of Grenada’s infrastructure – and the December 2004 Tsunami which rocked Sri Lanka, Maldives and other countries in the Indian Ocean. These events were followed in 2005 by a devastating earthquake in Pakistan. Drawing on its natural strengths and existing mechanisms the Commonwealth delivered practical assistance in the immediate aftermath of these events, and delivered advice and support to strategic interventions that would help to strengthen early warning systems, disaster risk management and inform future planning.
Areas of focus have been identified that support existing initiatives and help member countries co-operate in capacity building for disaster risk reduction and management. Developments have focused on integrating disaster risk reduction and management within COMSEC/CTFC programmes and adaptating to climate change advocacy and policy work that:
This work has been implemented through capacity building workshops in the Asia and Africa regions and deployment of technical experts to support projects in response to requests from member governments in reconstruction efforts.
The programme of work enables disaster preparedness, risk reduction and management to be integrated into existing areas of work with clear goals and priorities.