The year 2018 and 2019 saw tsunamis and earthquakes in Indonesia, severe droughts in Madagascar, floods and landslides in India, seasonal cyclones in the Islands of the Indian Ocean, and many more calamities. The 2008 Super Cyclone in Myanmar and the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami will forever be etched in public memory. The loss of lives as well as the damage to property and the natural environment is incalculable. The domino effect on poverty, famine, societal imbalance and other resultant tragedies cannot be discounted.
Management of disaster risks is particularly urgent in the IOR because it is home to small island nation states and developing littoral countries with high population densities, which are hit much harder due to the lack of resources and assets to handle the calamity. Moreover, the region is also witnessing an increasing link of natural disasters to climate change with increasing sea levels and rising water temperatures. Disaster Risk Management (DRM) is therefore an area of collective interest to IORA Member States.
DRM for IORA, revolves around the development of knowledge and capacities by governments, communities and individuals to effectively anticipate, respond to and recover from hazards and emergency situations. The area of work in DRM therefore covers preparation, mitigation and recovery. Governments around the world have committed to take action along the guidelines of the Sendai Framework to reduce vulnerabilities to natural hazards, and IORA is greatly influenced by the same. It must be noted that although the IOR is prone to disasters, it also has the world best institutes to help manage disasters.
IORA recognizes DRM to be a multidisciplinary concept as it involves the participation of a multitude of stakeholders, including national governments, non-governmental organizations, regional and international partners, donors, civil society and the private sector. IORA is therefore in the process of encouraging partnerships between governments and institutions to strengthen this Priority Area through the development of joint training programmes, sharing of experiences and best practices, building capacity and enhancing the technical capabilities within the region. The aim is to facilitate and enhance regional cooperation on preparedness and response strategies to fragile and unpredictable situations.
Under the IORA Action Plan 2017-2021, the development of DRM in IORA has been given focused direction. The Core Group on DRM, chaired by India for a period of two years, is tasked with leading the formulation of a Work Plan for this Priority Area, with the aim to enhance cooperation and develop resiliency in the IOR. Furthermore, the Core Group (Indonesia, Mauritius, Mozambique and Sri Lanka) along with Member States, are currently in the process of finalising the regional Work Plan and the IORA Guidelines for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).
In September 2019, IORA in collaboration with the IOC-UNESCO held the International Symposium on Tsunami Early Warning Systems - Lessons-learnt from the 2018 Tsunamis in Indonesia, which provided a unique platform for IORA experts to formulate actionable and practical recommendations for inclusion to the draft regional DRM Work Plan. In November 2019, experts from various technical and medical agencies from Member States responsible for post-disaster relief operations, met at the RWTH Aachen University in Germany to learn more about building innovative resilient communities.
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