It took more than a day and a half for Members of Parliament (MPs) to debate before passing the Bill for Disaster Risk Management Act No. of 2019.
During the debate, MPs expressed appreciations for the changes they have been waiting for such as provisions to cater for the establishment of Provincial Disaster and Climate Change Committees, and Municipal Disaster and Climate Change Committees.
Some MPs cited examples of slow responses to affected population during natural disasters such as cyclone Pam and other past cyclones as well as the Ambae volcano and Ambrym volcano disasters. Other MPs gave examples of the delay in responding to affected people such as in the Shepherds islands which they say were close to Port Vila but it took a while before the affected population received relieve assistance from the central government authorities.
Minister for Climate Change, Bruno Lengkon, said the bill aims to establish the necessary institutions and mandates for effective disaster risk management in Vanuatu.
This, he said, includes an integrated approach to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation; disaster preparedness and response at the national, provincial and municipal levels; ensure the development and implementation of disaster risk management policies, strategies and plans at the different level.
It will also support a whole-of-society approach to disaster risk management through education awareness, capacity building and training of elected officials, government employees, the private sector, non-government organizations and communities that are also gender responsive and respectful of indigenous and traditional knowledge systems.
The legislation also makes provisions to support a whole government approach to disaster risk management, especially the integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change across the different sectors and through all levels of government, through information sharing, cooperation and joint planning, as appropriate, and to government the declaration of disaster situations and ensure disaster response operations are effective; and to facilitate the entry and coordination of international humanitarian assistance when required during disaster situation, and to establish an Emergency Fund.
MPs say they hope that with the Disaster Risk Management Bill they passed, the people of Vanuatu will expect a more effective and quick responses to relief assistance from the central, Provincial and Municipal authorities.
The National Disaster Act (CAP 267) took legal effect on 20 November 2000, as the regulatory framework for disaster management in Vanuatu. Since its passage in Parliament, Vanuatu has been ranked the world’s most disaster-prone country in an annual World Risk Report published by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security (UBU-EHS). As a result, there have been major developments with regards to Disaster Risk Management and Disaster Risk Reduction in Vanuatu.
In 2003, the Council of Ministers created a new Ministry consisting of four Departments namely the Department of Energy, the Department of Environment, the Department of Meteorology and Geo-hazards, and the Department of Disaster Management.
In 2015, the Vanuatu Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Policy was launched and recommended the reviewing of the National Disaster Act and the enactment of a new Act, hence the work on the new Disaster Risk Management Bill that was passed by parliament last week.