Community Based Disaster Risk Management Experiences Shared at Pacific Platform

Noumea, New Caledonia- 18 September

What are some of the best approaches to ensuring that all community resources are recognized and mobilized for disaster risk reduction and management? How can equal participation of men and women be encouraged in this exercise? What are the most effective ways of linking local level projects to the national level?


These were some of the questions discussed at a session on community based disaster risk management at the 4th session of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Management and Pacific Regional Water and Sanitation Consultations currently underway at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community headquarters in Noumea.

Solomon Islands’ National Disaster Manager, Loti Yates, shared examples of what works at the community level in his country.  He emphasized that it is essential for national governments in the Pacific to have an overview of and coordinate all community-based DRM projects in its country, to avoid duplication and to effectively serve remote communities.

“Disaster risk management is not necessary a priority for communities, who are usually focused on daily survival. When we want to work in communities to enhance disaster risk management, we have to fit our programmes within the community’s ongoing activities, such as church, school and family obligations,” he said.

Mr Yates cited the example of using faith based organized and existing celebrations like Children’s Day, for example, to raise disaster risk issues.

He also spoke about designing programmes that complemented the community’s resources.

“In some villages there are no radios. We have designed a method of sending early warning for floods using colour coded water gauges. The villagers have been trained to read the gauges and they know what to do when the river water reaches certain levels, represented by different colours. This system worked very well as an early warning system during recent floods in the Solomon Islands.”

The session on community based disaster risk management was co-chaired by UNDP Pacific Centre’s Karen Bernard and Act for Peace’s Anthony Blake.

Dawn Sua-Tuiloma presented Samoa’s Community Based Disaster Risk Management toolkit, developed with support from the United Nations Education Science and Culture Organisation (UNESCO).

The toolkit is a comprehensive tool that can be used by communities to strength their self-reliance in disaster risk management.

Clement Manuri, Deputy Secretary General of Solomon Islands Red Cross, and Herve Gazeau of French Red Cross regional office, spoke about the “Together Becoming Resilient Initiative” being implemented by these agencies in 47 communities, covering seven provinces in two countries:  Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

“We seek the perspectives of both men and women in developing the community’s disaster risk reduction plans. We do this through having separate focus group discussions. This enables women to express their views freely on the risks faced by the community. We find that in meetings attended by both men and women, it is usually the men who speak most,” said Mr Manuri.

Adrien Pellequer, Water Resource Manager for Province Nord in New Caledonia outlined an innovative local water management project in Voh, Kone and Pouembout, covering 11,000 people.  He explained how the community organizes to secure its required water supply, in relation to the nickel mining industry also present in that province.

The presentations at this session as well as the discussions around them have helped frame a series of recommendations which will be included in the final statement from the 4th session of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Management and Pacific Regional Water and Sanitation Consultations, attended by some 200 specialists from the Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and Indian Ocean regions.

The Pacific Platform is an annual opportunity for countries, development partners and donors to share experiences and knowledge in building the resilience of their island communities to disasters. It is run by SPC in partnership with the UNISDR and is supported by partner organisations, including The Asia Foundation, United Stated Agency for International Development, the University of the South Pacific, United Nations Development Programme Pacific Centre, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, AusAID, the European Union and the French Pacific Fund.