The Civil Society Network on Climate Change (CISONECC) partners convened a Stakeholders’ meeting on the need to finalize and enact the Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Bill on 24th November 2022. The meeting brought together stakeholders from various sectors which include the Academia, Civil Society, Media, the Private Sector, and community representatives. The engagement took place at a time the DRM Bill is yet to be tabled in Parliament despite the process dating back to 2015.
As stakeholders in climate change and disaster risk management sector;
We recognize the need for multi-stakeholder involvement in the formulation and implementation of various climate change and disaster risk management policy frameworks in Malawi with a particular focus on the implementation of the National Climate Change Management Policy, and the National Disaster Risk Management Policy.
We acknowledge the importance of the development and implementation of resilience policies in facilitating the effective coordination, financing, and implementation of multi-sectoral programs to avert the impacts of climate change in Malawi. Malawi’s resilience framework calls upon all sectors and stakeholders to pursue a proactive and integrated way of reducing the impacts of climate change hazards through sustainable, innovative, and realistic strategies with strong partnerships and networks.
We commend the interest and the commitment of the Government of Malawi in participatory formulation and implementation of the resilience policies and the support of the development partners through the provision of technical and financial support in developing policies and their implementation.
We reiterate our unwavering commitment in the search for solutions that seek to reduce the impacts of climate change and strengthen national resilience thereby reducing the impacts of disasters.
We understand that there is an interplay of constraining technical, financial, and political factors and that there are some capacities and incapacities among us as stakeholders, but we resolve to come together and tap into each other’s strengths and efforts to enhance national resilience and safeguard human dignity and a sustainable future.
We are concerned with delays by the Government of Malawi to have the DRM Bill tabled in Parliament as evidenced by the back-and-forth engagements between the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) and the Ministry of Justice.
We also lament that the Government of Malawi is losing a lot of resources in disaster related expenses; a situation which can easily be abated by the provisions of the DRM Bill once enacted.
We, therefore, present the following demands in relation to the finalization and enactment of the DRM Bill into law, as well as general disaster risk management:
1. Depoliticize the DRM Bill
CSOs and Stakeholders in the DRM sector started advocating for the enactment of the DRM Bill in 2017. There was a glimmer of hope when the draft bill was gazetted on 10th May 2019 that it would soon be tabled in the August House. Since then, there have been protracted discussions between DoDMA and the Ministry of Justice which have not yielded any tangible outcome, an indication that the delay might be caused by a lack of political will.
The Government should seriously consider desisting from politicizing the DRM Bill and DRM issues in the country.
The CSOs and stakeholders appeal that DoDMA should be independent of the political spheres’ interference, and the implementation of the bill needs to be free of political machinations in all its nature, shape and form, and any relief items that the Government is providing should not in any way carry the political names, flags or colors.
2. Invest in Disaster Risk Reduction
In the past 3 years, Malawi has been hit by devastating cyclones and tropical storms that have rendered thousands of people homeless and displaced, injured, and others dead, destroying their belongings and crop fields. In times of these disasters, civil society organizations, the private sector, development partners, and well-wishers always show their support by giving different forms of assistance. This year, prior to Tropical Storm Ana, over MWK7 billion was mobilized for response and recovery during and after the 2021/2022 rainfall season. 10 months after the Tropical Storms Ana and Gombe, the country is yet to recover from the damages caused by the tropical storms despite spending a lot of funds on the same. It is worrisome that such amounts are biased towards responding to the recovery of communities from disaster effects and not towards reducing the vulnerabilities of people and ecosystems at risk through disaster risk reduction.
Meanwhile, years have passed with CSOs still lobbying the Government to enact the Disaster Risk Management Bill to pave way for investments in disaster risk reduction. It is evident that “fixing the economic system in order to create wealth for Malawians” should include investing in the DRM sector where Malawians lose wealth, which they amassed throughout the year to disasters whose impact can be prevented. In addition, “fixing the agricultural system to achieve food security for Malawians” must include investing in strong infrastructure for harvesting the runoff water for irrigation purposes after the rainfall season rather than letting it loose to destroy lives and livelihoods. Organizations and communities can implement climate change adaptation interventions but there is need for Government to redirect the focus from disasters response to disaster risk reduction!
3. Strengthen the Capacity for key actors in DRM
Stakeholders, including the CSOs, should play a role in ensuring that the community level, as well as district level structures that have been put in place, are well-capacitated for the roles the bill and policies provide for. The devolution plan should therefore be activated as soon as the bill is passed and decentralization of the functions in the department should already be underway to ensure smooth implementation of the bill, since disasters are emergencies that are not planned.
4. Set up an Information Management System for Disaster Risk Management
Government through DoDMA and Environmental Affairs Department (EAD) as well as the CSOs working in the Climate Change and DRM should ensure that they develop a comprehensive Information Management System (IMS) to avoid providing conflicting information between the national level institutions and the decentralized levels on reporting DRM issues. The IMS will facilitate the collection, storage, organization, and dissemination of DRM information amongst stakeholders. It will also enhance the utilization of information for informed decision-making, information analysis, and visualization among others. The IMS will ensure that data and information are easily accessed through an integrated, centralized IMS for transparency and stakeholder mapping.
CISONECC members, Board, Secretariat and its partners reaffirm their continued commitment to assisting the Government of Malawi in addressing the impacts of climate change and disasters through risk management in partnership with the responsible Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and other stakeholders. We look forward to the Government taking positive action to consider the finalization and enactment of DRM Bill as a matter of urgency.