Press Notice 63a, Session 2005-06

WORLDWIDE LACK OF POLITICAL WILL TO PREPARE FOR NATURAL DISASTERS: SELECT COMMITTEE REPORT

There is a lack of worldwide political will to prepare for natural disasters, including those intensified by climate change, says a report released today by the International Development Committee, which calls on the Government to commit more funds in favour of disaster preparedness.

The report, Humanitarian Response to Natural Disasters, highlights evidence from NGOs that even where hi-tech early warning systems are in place, thousands of lives are still being lost because of a lack of determination to fund and implement preventative measures. Oxfam explained, in one of the report's written evidence submissions, that improved accuracy in the forecasting of 'slow-onset disasters', such as food crises, has not been matched by the political will to offset the predicted human suffering.

With a rapidly increasing number of development and humanitarian agencies working in disaster-prone countries, there is a disconnection between those working on poverty reduction and those working on disaster relief. The Committee is calling for DFID to offer financial incentives to those agencies that bring the two disciplines together in their objectives. DFID is also urged to ensure that the multilateral organisations it funds to carry out humanitarian work give sufficient priority to reducing the risk of disasters.

The problem is that potential donors are reluctant to spend money on 'Disaster Risk-Reduction' (DRR) because the benefits are less tangible than with funds donated to humanitarian responses to disasters. "Lives saved through DRR are invisible to the media whereas people pulled from the rubble by search and rescue teams are highly visible" says the report.

Chairman of the International Development Committee, Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce, said,

"More and more people are being afflicted by natural disasters. The impact of climate change will increase the number of disasters exponentially. Yet political decision makers are failing to make responsible preparations. We are calling for the UK, EU, World Bank and other donors to devote at least 10% of their total humanitarian budgets to reducing the impact of potential disasters."

Christian Aid submitted evidence that 9 out of 11 of the disasters they have responded to recently have been climate-related. But even in the face of this evidence, international consensus on the reality and likely impacts of climate change on disasters remains "elusive". For example, the outcome document of the January 2005 World Conference on Disaster Reduction held in Hyogo, Japan, only contained a reference to climate change after significant controversy. The Committee calls on DFID to set out specific actions and measurable targets to follow up on the "positive rhetoric" of its recent White Paper.

Notes to editors:

1. The Committee will be publishing its Report on Humanitarian response to natural disasters on Thursday 2 November 2006 at 00.01 a.m. as the Seventh Report from the Committee, Session 2005-06 [HC 1188-I].

2. An embargoed electronic copy will be available for witnesses, Government Departments and the press from 11.00 a.m. on Wednesday 1 November, and embargoed hard copies of the Report will be available for collection by witnesses, Government Departments and the press from 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA and from the Press Gallery from 11.00 a.m. on Wednesday 1 November 2006.

3. The membership of the Committee is as follows:

Malcolm Bruce MP (Chairman, Lib Dem), John Barrett MP (Lib Dem), John Battle MP (Lab), John Bercow MP (Con), Hugh Bayley MP (Lab), Richard Burden MP (Lab), Mr Quentin Davies MP (Con), James Duddridge MP (Con), Ann McKechin MP (Lab), Joan Ruddock MP (Lab), Mr Marsha Singh (Lab).

Media Enquiries: Alex Paterson, Tel 020 7219 1589, mob 07917 488 488 email - [email protected]

Committee website: www.parliament.uk/indcom

Specific Committee Information: Carol Oxborough Tel 020 7219 1226, email - [email protected]