Expanding the purview of post disaster governance:some thoughts

This is the second article in the series on Social Innovation which I had recently commenced recently with a post on the next level of CSR.  The concept will be elaborated and expatiated in this article and forthcoming posts. Recently we have come across natural disasters of unprecedented magnitude occurring in Japan  firstly the earthquakes and the the corresponding Fukoshima nuclear mess. A proud race has been brought to its knees, forced to take in assistance from overseas where as until very recently Japan was a major international aid donor to the third world. There was a major earthquake in Burma and a series of natural disasters globally have exposed the fissures in the global governance architecture , and the inability of major powers and UN affiliated organizations (which are under funded and under staffed) to deal with the aftermath of these catastrophe’s .

Haiti is still, unbuilt and has faded into the back burners of media coverage as it lives on feeding the 24 hour beast with ‘breaking news’ and the battle for TRP’s. This calls to the big question of how in the very near future we will deal with such major incidents when western powers themselves are in the midst of post recession restructuring and President Obama is sweating out to get his Budget passed by Congress.  The ‘money bags’ of the persian gulf are too busy quelling internal rebellions and ‘Middle Kingdom’ is busy building the ‘The Great Firewall’  and gobbling up resources in Sub Saharan Africa. China has to act like a Global Power if it believes it is. Well India is currently too busy basking in the glory of post World Cup Cricket victory and in enacting an anti-corruption legislation to worry about global issues although currently it is a member of the UN Security Council.

The response to disasters has to be local and at the maximum at a regional scale. Regional bodies like the ASEAN and the African Union have more to do with rebuilding communities than the UNFP and the UNHCR. A new International Body for Disaster Response and Prevention can be of massive use, if it has the financial teeth. International Civil Society Organizations are the backbone of global efforts for relief  such as the Medicines Sans Frontieres, Christian Aid and the Red Cross along with local groups who are the eyes on the ground. Religious charities have played a major role in post disaster responses such as in post war Lebanon and Kashmir as in post Katrina New Orleans. Technology assists in Disaster Management in a big manner as as Ushahidi- a not for profit tech company which used its  real time mapping capabilities in South Sudan during its referendum (http://www.ushahidi.com/) and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative along with George Clooney played a huge role in averting another genocide in Juba between the Dinka and the Nuer tribes as well as by the North Sudanese Army + Janjaweed. Crimes against humanity are a man made catastrophe and hence falls in to the scope of disaster relief.

Local level resilience is the key to disaster response..this takes time as knowledge is stored in institutions and mechanisms for response are built. This needs to account the local social dynamics and the history and culture of the area. Technology plays a catalytic role but the society is the substrate for building perpetual resilience in response to load factors. Private Sector has a major role to play in disaster relief as a part of new paradigm of creating shared value and extended CSR. The first agency to respond after the Aceh Earthquake and Tsunami was the logistics firm TNT. Private Sector has their supply chains in place which can be leveraged for disaster response as Coca Cola has access to the smallest hamlets in sub saharan africa which the government even does not possess!


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