Efforts in disaster risk reduction (DRR) in Vietnam to date have primarily focused on rural areas and often employ effective community based disaster risk management (CBDRM) methods, yet there is an intensifying need for better DRR approaches in urban contexts. In a country experiencing rapid development, many communities in urban and peri-urban areas are increasingly vulnerable to natural hazards and disasters.
Policymakers, practitioners and researchers met in Da Nang in April at a workshop organized by the Disaster Management Center (DMC) and the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET) Vietnam to share their knowledge and experiences in both urban and rural DRR.
At this event, 14 cities from across Vietnam came together with government agencies, NGOs and researchers to exchange experiences and identify current challenges and potential solutions for improving urban DRR in Vietnam.
Key points raised during the workshop
- Current disaster management policies and efforts focus largely on emergency response and disaster recovery, and less so on risk reduction, prevention and adaptation. Major natural hazards and disasters around the world over the past decade – including Hurricane Katrina in 2005, typhoons in 2009, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake – highlighted that governments can be immobilized by disasters, and recognition of this has helped shift perspectives towards the need for greater expertise in urban DRR.
- Existing laws, guidelines and interventions relevant to DRR – such as the National Green Growth Strategy and Construction Law – are not sufficiently coordinated or synchronized, do not fully address or facilitate DRR in urban areas, and do not provide comprehensive or effective mechanisms for multi-stakeholder and cross-sector coordination and information sharing. Policymakers must carefully consider the appropriate levels of delegation for decision-making, from the local to the provincial and national levels. In particular, local authorities should be able to access and apply up-to-date information and data to inform their DRR planning.
- While the established approaches often used in the field (such as CBDRM) are highly instructive, urban contexts demand tailored approaches to community engagement, and local knowledge must play a central role in building resilience over the long term. Many communities throughout Vietnam are already accustomed to dealing with natural disasters, and this resilience should be recognized as a strength. However, it is crucial to actively engage community members in DRR decision-making and education about risks, prevention, and response mechanisms.
- Urban DRR implicates a wide range of stakeholders, including governments at all levels, international donors, civil society, academia, business, and local communities. Concerted private sector engagement in DRR planning and implementation is still limited, despite the significant potential for businesses to play a more central role in supporting more effective urban DRR. There is a need to clarify the incentives for deeper business engagement and explore the potential for public-private partnerships.
A new Natural Disaster Prevention Law, effective from 1 May 2014, is expected to initially address these issues by providing a systematic legal framework to regulate DRR-related actors and actions in rural and urban areas.
Keep an eye on the UCR-CoP blog in the coming months for a forthcoming publication on the challenges and solutions for urban DRR in Vietnam, which will build on the experiences, lessons and suggestions discussed at this workshop.
Stephanie Lyons and Tho Nguyen, ISET-Vietnam