By Tessa Kelly
In response to a request from the Sri Lankan government, a multi-disciplinary team of experts from around the world was deployed in Sri Lanka from 12 – 25 of November 2011 to undertake a United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) Disaster Response Preparedness Mission. The purpose of the mission was to review and assess the capacities and capabilities of the National Disaster Management System and to provide recommendations to strengthen Sri Lanka’s preparedness for disasters. The IFRC was invited to be part of the team to provide technical expertise in the area of disaster law.
Over the two-week period, the team undertook intensive research and conducted interviews with a wide range of stakeholders from the sub-national to national level. The mission focused on three broad themes: preparedness, early warning and institutional frameworks; response and coordination; and emergency services. Particular attention was also paid to the ability of the national disaster management systems to interface with incoming international assistance in major disasters.
The final mission report, which was presented to the Government of Sri Lanka at the end of the mission, highlighted a number of best practice initiatives implemented in Sri Lanka for improving disaster preparedness. It also contained 36 recommendations for improving the national disaster management system. Although noting that the existing Disaster Management Act of 2005 is currently being revised to include a number of positive reforms, the report recommended amending the act further to define the ”process for accepting, regulating and facilitating international assistance in accordance with the tenets of international disaster response law”. The report also recommended a comprehensive review of all laws and regulations relevant to disaster management against the Guidelines for the Domestic Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance.
Following completion of the mission, Mrs S.M. Mohamed, Secretary for the Ministry of Disaster Management, said that the mission recommendations had “been well received across the board” with the Ministry of Disaster Management already initiating steps to implement some of the recommendations.