By Stella NGUGI
While in the middle of an ever-evolving humanitarian crisis, South Sudan has remained committed to developing strong legal frameworks to facilitate the timely delivery of assistance to vulnerable communities and enhance disaster risk management in the country. To guide these efforts, the South Sudan Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management (MHADM) has been spearheading the development of a National Disaster Risk Management (NDRM) Policy to strengthen the country’s disaster risk management framework.
With the support of the South Sudan Red Cross (SSRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), as well as other partners, the MHADM has been able to develop the NDRM Policy that is hoped to offer the stepping stone in the development of sound legal frameworks on disaster management in the country. Additionally, due to the complexity of the humanitarian situation in the country, the MHADM has sought and received support in this process from various in-country International organisations such as UNDP, the Partners for Resilience and the Canadian and Netherlands Red Cross.
“Disasters are disruptive and we need to be prepared to deal with them and reduce their impact on the population”, explained the Honourable Mr. Hussein Mar Nyiuot, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, at the opening of a national disaster law workshop in April 2018. “We can only be truly prepared if we have the right laws in place.”
As the MHADM works to finalise the policy, and plans for the development of a disaster management law, a two-day workshop was organised jointly with SSRC and the IFRC which was held on 10 – 11 April 2018 in Juba. The purpose of the workshop was to present the final draft NDRM policy to parliamentarians for their input. Among the parliamentarians in attendance were members of the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian affairs, as well as the Committee on Gender Affairs, under whose mandate the development of policies relating to disaster management falls. During the workshop, the parliamentarians were introduced to the key concepts of disaster law and how they can positively impact disaster risk management in South Sudan. Additionally, a briefing on the journey the policy and the crucial role of the SSRC in the entire process was given. Participants noted that due to its expansive network of volunteers, the South Sudan Red Cross Society remains at the forefront of humanitarian assistance in the country, working tirelessly to ensure timely delivery of desperately needed aid to communities in need.
“Without the Red Cross we would not be here. They have played a big role in helping communities [and] I have seen the impact of their work since I was a child, explained the Honourable Mr. Simon Malwal, Member of Parliament.
The workshop also offered a platform for a collaborative discussion about the final steps for the timely finalisation and adoption of the NDRM policy. The participants offered a critical analysis of the key concepts of the policy, and discussed the strengths and the weaknesses of the document. The participants lauded the inclusion of capacity building activities for staff of relevant agencies, use of traditional mitigation practices and the recognition that DRR is a participatory and collaborative process. Additionally, the recognition of the need to develop an institutional framework for disaster risk management as well as operationalising early warning systems were acknowledged as key concepts of the policy that will improve South Sudan’s preparedness and enhance organisational responsibility and accountability in disaster management.
As a shortcoming however, they noted that there was need to have community awareness campaigns to ensure their inclusion in the process as well as express recognition of funding mechanisms for the proposed DM and DRR activities. They also noted that there needs to be a continued engagement with not only the various government ministries but also the SSRC, and that their roles and responsibilities should be clearly elaborated in the policy. This, as noted by the workshop participants, would enhance accountability in disaster management and avoid duplication of efforts which often leads to unnecessary delays. “Disaster Risk Management Laws should be seen as a social contract that shares responsibilities between the government and communities”, explained Ms. Betty Kitta Scopas Dumo, Director General, Directorate of Early Warning Systems Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management.
At the close of the workshop, the Ministry appreciated the participation of the honourable members and noted to include all recommended changes to the policy before its final presentation to parliament. The Honourable members from specialised committees on their part reiterated their support to this process and promised to champion the policy in parliament once it is tabled for debate. The IFRC also reaffirmed its commitment to continue supporting the South Sudanese government in the development of a solid framework for the management of disasters and building community resilience.