Disaster risk management takes root in Indonesia

November 12, 2012

Pamela Cox This article was published in The Jakarta Post on November 12, 2012

Almost eight years have passed since Aceh and Nias were struck by a devastating earthquake and tsunami. Today, houses, roads and bridges have been rebuilt — a true testimony to the hard work and resilience of the Indonesian people, supported by a united global community.

By the end of 2012, the work of the Multi Donor Fund (MDF) for Aceh and Nias, which pooled US$655 million from 15 donors for reconstruction efforts, will be complete.

But their legacy may be even greater than these remarkable accomplishments. As a country prone to natural disasters, Indonesia led the MDF and had to face the difficulties of post-disaster response and reconstruction.

Indonesia learned a lot from this experience, and today, under the auspices of the Indonesian government, a major international conference takes place today in Jakarta to share knowledge on disaster reconstruction and risk management and to celebrate the success of the MDF.

The MDF teaches us many lessons about how to respond to disasters — and how to reduce disaster risks in the future.

Based on a model developed by the World Bank, the MDF worked because it established a transparent and inclusive structure that enabled all stakeholders — local and national government, donors, international institutions, NGOs and local communities — to discuss issues and make decisions. It put in place systems to manage costs, support good governance, monitor progress and report results.

And the lessons from MDF helped the government respond to other disaster. The test came in 2006, when an earthquake struck Central Java, claiming nearly 6,000 lives, almost 300,000 homes, and thousands of jobs.

The government established a multi-donor fund consisting of seven donors pooling $95 million. Community-driven approaches for rebuilding housing, first developed in Aceh, were improved and
successfully applied.

Programs to restore livelihoods brought small businesses back to life.

There is an emerging global consensus that disaster risk management is vital.

Economic losses caused by natural hazards have more than tripled to a total of $3.5 trillion over the last three decades. Just last month at the Sendai Dialogue, convened in Japan during the World Bank Group/IMF Annual Meetings, the World Bank and Japan urged governments and development partners to accelerate efforts to integrate disaster risk management into development planning.

Indonesia has done exactly that, and more. Indonesian government policies now include disaster preparedness, helping people living under the threat of natural disasters become more resilient.

Recognizing that an effective disaster response requires careful planning and a system that can coordinate many stakeholders, the Indonesian government also set up ways to get funds quickly to help its disaster recovery.

Working out details in advance, including a transparent mechanism for funds management, and
a system for identifying reconstruction strategy and implementation, allows policy makers to meet
both the urgent and immediate needs of disaster survivors, and to manage reconstruction efforts

No country can fully insulate itself from disaster risk, but every country can reduce its vulnerability. Sharing Indonesia’s experience and knowledge can help others find these solutions.

In my previous role as the World Bank’s Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, we sought Indonesia’s advice to help Haiti after the destructive earthquake of January 2010.

One main lesson stands out: disaster-prone countries must plan and embed disaster risk management into their policies. Better planning can help reduce damage and loss of life, and prevention is far less costly than disaster relief and response.

Globally, it is estimated that one dollar spent on prevention can reduce disaster impact by four dollars. When natural disasters inevitably strike, the investment is worth every dollar.

The true legacy of Indonesia’s disaster experiences and their application worldwide will then pay off: more lives saved, lower reconstruction costs — and thus more resilient communities.