7.6 Disaster Management and Social Resilience

Disasters are deadly and damage infrastructure and economies. Natural disasters have become a feature of global landscape and will continue causing personal, social, economic and environmental impacts that will take many years to dissipate. South Asia is one of the regions where exposure to disasters is high. The impact of disasters in the region prevents many thousands of people from breaking out of poverty. Repetitive disasters and shocks reduce the resilience of individuals, communities and societies. The psychosocial repercussion of disasters can be long lasting and may undermine well-being and threaten peace and human rights. This would further exacerbate with climate change, urbanisation and demographic shifts. Thus, reducing risk and building resilience to future disasters is a priority not only to save lives but also for sustainable economic growth.

Sri Lanka is not unfamiliar with natural disasters commonly caused by floods, cyclones, landslides, and droughts mainly due to the fact that the country is an Island in a complex geographic location. However, the Tsunami in 2004, took Sri Lanka by surprise warning that the country is vulnerable to low-frequency and high impact events. The Tsunami killed more than 35,000 Sri Lankans, damaged 100,000 houses and caused an economical damage estimated at US$ 1.3bn (six percent of the country’s GDP). However, 2004 Tsunami also taught bitter lessons to Sri Lanka forcing the all major stakeholders to act collectively for developing a comprehensive, long term and holistic disaster risk management framework.

We believe that natural disasters and hazards may be inevitable, though the suffering, destruction and the loss of life associated with those are not necessarily inevitable. We will undertake the activities that are needed to develop social resilience by analysing and managing risks, reducing vulnerability and building capacity to reduce risk and grow greater resilience. Investing in disaster management and social resilience is a precondition necessary for making development efforts sustainable. We believe integrating risk reduction into development is critical for achieving sustainable development. We will make arrangements for investing in risk reduction before disaster strikes. By better preparing the vulnerable, the poor and the marginalised, it will be able to recover faster.

Based on research and operational experiences gained over many years both locally and internationally, we will work towards integrating disaster management and social resilience frameworks into development agenda by bringing together the national government, provincial governments and the private sector to understand their respective roles in alleviating the vulnerability of the poorest and most vulnerable. We will work towards a more disaster resilient Sri Lanka, able to recognise current and future risk, reduce and manage those risks, and be better able to adapt to change and recover from disasters. We will highlight the stages of managing natural disasters while paying attention to the roles played by various stakeholders in the process of institutional building in disaster management.

We believe participation, especially by the poor and the vulnerable and technology justice are critical to ensure a sustainable, fair and just future for all. Hence, we shall use a participatory approach that involves people in decision making and technological innovation in line with the principles of technology justice.

Despite technology being at the heart of human development, access to technology and its benefits are not fairly shared. This absence or lack of technology is starkly obvious, and it has become a designing feature of the poverty and hardship of most villagers. Technology justice requires the involvement of the poorest and most vulnerable in the development of technological solutions that will deliver the biggest impacts. This requires a critical examination of how technology may reduce vulnerability, but also how the use of some technologies can exacerbate vulnerability, for example by degrading the local environment or contributing to climate change. Technological injustice is a major obstacle to achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals. A just and responsible approach to technology is fundamental if we are to address climate change and defuse future resource-based conflicts.

Digitalisation with rapid innovations offer better opportunities to share information and hold people accountable. Diverse actors are creating new partnerships with the aim of developing more shared and open technologies. We will harness Technology Justice, a new path for technology development and use. Here technology will be used to ensure everyone in the country can enjoy a basic standard of living while technology is being used in an environmentally sustainable manner.

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