The Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, in partnership with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and UN OCHA Liaison Office to the African Union (UNOCHA-AULO) organized a Disaster Response Dialogue on Legal and Institutional Frameworks for International Disaster Response at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa on March 10th. Previous similar dialogues took place in New York, Geneva, and Brussels. This is however the first time that the dialogue has included amongst its participants, representatives of Permanent Missions, National Disaster Management Agencies, and Regional Economic Communities as well as being held in Addis Ababa.
Participants included over 30 representatives of Permanent Missions to the African Union and over 10 representatives of National Disaster Management Agencies and other humanitarian actors. The Chair of the PRC Sub-Committee on Refugees, Returnees, and IDPs, was also present and made closing remarks in light of the increasing number of disaster-affected Member States the sub-committee is assessing as part of its programme of work and assistance. The Chair stressed that ‘’continued dialogue and interaction with and between Member States and institutions, facilitated by the Commission is key. Some Member States have advanced in the area of coordination systems, others in terms of their legal and policy frameworks, others in the area of early warning, preparedness, and response capacity. We need to identify and document good practices in our Member States and be able to lead on the process of developing technical assistance and cooperation schemes in coherence with the work currently being conducted, and planned, in the Regional Economic Communities’’.
The one-day dialogue aimed at raising awareness on global and regional coordination systems for disaster response, disaster response and management law, and issues of accountability and quality with regard to disaster response, but also served as a forum for disaster affected governments, humanitarian partners, and regional institutions to identify current gaps in disaster response and programs of action to raise national and local capacities as well as coordination.
Key recommendations that came out of the dialogue included the need for African Member States and RECs to identify and register their logistical/assets, personnel, sector capabilities in the area of disaster management; creating a standing architecture for communication between the Commission, RECs, and National Disaster Focal Persons; utilization of regional capacities in addressing local disasters; and the development of soft law at the level of the AU which harmonizes various policy and legislative provisions on disaster management to address current gaps. There was consensus that this dialogue should be institutionalized and be a standing meeting to dialogue on issues of disaster management on the continent.