UNDP Humanitarian Coordinator Specialist, Mr Richard Higgins provided an overview of the international humanitarian coordination mechanism and DMP Cluster system that supports national emergency response.

A weeklong regional consultation on the review of the Disaster Management Act of 1984 is currently underway at the Lamana Hotel, in Port Moresby.

Twenty-six (26) participants from the four Momase region provinces and the seven Highlands region provinces are taking part in this workshop, representing provincial disaster coordination offices and the provincial administrations.

Papua New Guinea National Disaster Director, Colonel Carl Wrakonei opened the workshop highlighting the importance of reviewing the NDC Act, which is now 37 years old, and how the workshop plays an important role in the review process.

“The purpose of this week-long workshop is to allow provincial disaster coordinators to provide their views, based on their experiences, on how we can collectively work towards changing and renewing the Act,” said Colonel Wrakonei.

 “We need to overhaul the Disaster Management Act and ensure that lessons learnt from some of the disasters such as the Highlands Earthquake 2018, Manam and Kadavor island volcanic eruptions - and even the current COVID-19 pandemic - are incorporated into the new legislative arrangements for disaster management in the country.

Colonel Wrakonei said Government and stakeholders must begin a consultative review process “to ensure its legislative frameworks respond to both present and future needs in the domain of disaster risks management.”

Participants are encouraged to share their views of the Act, note the challenges they currently face, make recommendations on what needs to be included in the Act and what needs to be amended so the provincial disaster coordinators can respond to emergencies effectively and efficiently. 

Issues highlighted by participants as being important topics of discussion during the workshop is the lack of dedicated funding, or mechanisms to easily access funding in emergencies, and the lack of clear coordination mechanisms under the current legal framework. The existing Act also does not address coordination of international assistance nor does it provide mechanisms for disaster victims who are exploited or become targets for criminal activities.

United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Specialist, Mr Richard Higgins, briefed participants on the current practices in place for coordinating international humanitarian assistance for disaster response. “The Disaster Management Team, which is co-chaired by the NDC Director and the UN Resident Coordinator, is our forum for strategically coordinating international assistance to support the Government when crises or emergencies happen. But, we are also constantly preparing for future disasters, so that we can step in to fill the gaps and support the Government.”

The workshop will cover the NDC Act review and discuss recommendations from the provinces on how to bring the Act into the 21st century to better meet the current needs of PNG. It is among many Acts the Government currently plans to update, and so the timing is right to ensure that whatever is proposed is harmonious with other laws and provides the national, provincial and local governments a suitable framework within which to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate the impact of future disasters.

The review process will next continue to the New Guinea Island and Southern regions after this workshop. The United Nations Development Programme is providing technical assistance to NDC for the review of the Act.

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