Common governance threads we have found in our case studies and general research into disasters avoided are as follows:
Combined with having the right mindset, strong and competent governance together with genuine accountability for implementing the right actions with the right resources is fundamental to avoiding disasters. The best technical solutions, availability of information and the provision of finances can only be effective when good, transparent governance and accountability are in place.
Good governance and accountability applies to all groups of people involved in the effort to avoid a disaster - it is not only the responsibility of government. There needs to be a shared sense of doing the right thing, and a common understanding that everyone will be accountable for their actions in a fair and appropriate way, and that these actions will be monitored to ensure their effectiveness.
1. Good government (all levels)
Good government at all levels is critical to taking upfront action to invest in and allocate scarce resources (people, finances, materials) towards measurable and quantifiable actions to avoid disasters.
One pitfall to avoid is having too many layers of decision-making. When coupled with trust and accountability, fewer layers provides local government on/near to the front line with the autonomy to act when and where it is most needed.
2. Accountability by everyone
Accountability for actions requires consequences for what is done, and not done. When we agree to do something, we must be accountable for it. If someone cannot take on a fair level of accountability they should step aside and let someone else take over who can commit to it.
3. Good planning
As we have seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, no place is immune from catastrophe. Upfront planning and action, and open knowledge sharing of what works well, what needs to be improved, and what more needs to be done helps us cope better. This requires a willingness by everyone involved to invest time and scarce resources in saving lives and livelihoods, protecting nature, and defining economic benefits of taking upfront action.
Well-thought-through planning covers a range of perspectives, and assesses risks and vulnerabilities now and in the future with trusted information, including science-based data. Good planning needs to invite input from a broad range of people representing different needs - who need to be involved in shaping strategies and plans from the beginning, not consulted for feedback once a plan has been created.
4. Defined value
Good governance leverages accurate evidence and data demonstrating how risks can be managed with actions that deliver benefits and value - at the individual and local level to the national level and, at a global level, international agreements including the SDGs and The Sendai Framework. Good governance can also help to bind elements of value together - the value of life, the environment, our physical built world and our social systems.
5. Defined risk tolerance thresholds
Are risk tolerance thresholds defined? For example, what is our accepted risk tolerance to protect against flooding - how physically high or large are the protection measures we implement to withstand a particular extent of flooding? As another example, what level of earthquake is infrastructure and the built environment in a known seismic area designed to withstand?
Stay tuned for some supporting information to be added here soon about the vital role of governance in avoiding disasters:
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