The Importance of Localizing Humanitarian Action in the PH DRRM Process: Unpacking RA 10121
Updated: Feb 26, 2021
The 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) emphasized that humanitarian action should be as local as possible, as international as necessary, and that communities build back better through strengthening and utilizing their skills and capacities in the whole disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) process. The WHS also highlighted the importance of empowering communities, civil society organizations (CSOs) and other stakeholders to cope and recover from disaster related incidents through a humanitarian action process that puts people at its heart, ensures the active participation of communities, and safeguards the role of local communities and peoples as the primary agents of disaster response. Localization advocates for the active participation of local communities and organizations in project planning, implementation, and decision-making processes. Their inclusion in the DRRM process will vastly improve the resilience of people and ensure that projects target the right issues.
The localization of humanitarian action will give all local stakeholders the necessary tools, information, agency, and power that they need in enhancing their participation, influence, control, and power over processes that affect their lives and in holding institutions more accountable.
Philippines, RA10121, and challenges to localization
The Philippines has always seen the need to enhance its disaster risk reduction and management measures of prime importance. The 2020 World Risk Report ranked the Philippines as the ninth country worldwide with the highest exposure to disaster risks. In addition to this, the latest Global Climate Risk Index also noted that the Philippines is second most affected country in the world in terms of weather-related losses. The same climate risk report pointed out that the country has been continuously ranked as one of the most affected countries both in the long-term and yearly indexes.
The enactment of Republic Act 10121, otherwise known as the Philippines’ DRRM Act of 2010, was widely hailed as one of the most robust legislations when it comes to DRRM as it encompasses disaster prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response, and rehabilitation and recovery. It provides a strong legal basis to initiate, develop, and implement activities on the local and national levels that touch on the whole DRRM process. It gave high regard to the importance of ensuring and improving the resilience of local communities and emphasized the importance of disaster resiliency in order to achieve sustainable development. It also mandated the establishment of local DRRM Councils (LDRRMCs) which will further capacitate local governments ability to conduct risk assessments, manage and provide training activities, and establish a DRRM Operations Centre that fully takes into account the hazards faced by their respective localities.
The National DRRM Plan 2011-2028 underscores the programs and plans of the government regarding RA10121. It also provides that CSOs, the private sector and volunteers are important components of the government’s DRRM initiatives especially when it comes to the effective delivery of the services to the community and people in need.
While RA10121 is considered to be one of the best legislations in terms of DRRM, there still remains challenges that hinder it to reach its full potential to increase and strengthen the resiliency of peoples and their communities. The National DRRM Plan noted that gaps still exist in applying resiliency principles to actual practice at different levels of government and among practitioners and stakeholders. Moreover, while RA10121 also underscored the important role played by CSOs and other non-governmental stakeholders, RA10121 and its accompanying plan could have expounded more on measures focused on inclusion and in enhancing partnerships in the whole DRRM process especially in in terms of decision-making.
One of the gaps identified in the 2011-2028 plan was the need to further understand and take note of the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in various levels. It noted that there is a lack of a consistently conducted competency-based capacity building program. A competency-based capacity building program would be beneficial because it will look into the existing skills, capacities, and knowledge of communities that must be reinforced and strengthened; and not just introduce new skills.
When it comes to empowering and engaging local communities, it is through the government’s substantive engagement with local communities, people and local CSOs that the government will gain concrete ideas and knowledge on the actual and felt needs of the constituents they serve. However, mere dialogue with affected communities and people will not suffice. Consultation and dialogue must be coupled with the provision of feedback and updates. This embodies an active participation method that will allow stakeholders to take part in initiatives from start to end. By engaging local communities and other stakeholders, the government will ensure that all stakeholders have voice and agency, information and knowledge, strengthened capacities, and even the ability to transform power structures and level of accountability.
In addition to this, localization also entails forging substantive partnerships with CSOs and strengthening their capacities. CSOs that are active on the ground can greatly help the government especially with regard to timely dissemination of information, formulation of projects and plans that target issues faced by affected communities, and even in assessment of needs, damages and losses. CSOs are vital in all stages of the DRRM process and must be recognized by the government as prime partners in building resiliency and improving DRRM processes.
Funding is also of prime importance. While RA10121 pushes for the setting up of local councils, more has to be done to increase and fasten recruitment of staff and organization of offices. According to a report done by Save the Children and the AADMER Partnership Group, numerous local governments cannot appoint staff as mandated by RA10121 as they have reached the limit allowed by law in terms of salaries and personal services. A fully functioning and capacitated LDRRMC will allow local governments to enhance its disaster-related efforts, especially when it comes to disaster preparedness and prevention.
While RA10121 and its accompanying plan provide a basis for the Philippines to incorporate and strengthen its localization programs, a lot of challenges still has to be addressed. On the local level, it is important for the government to further collaborate, partner and engage with local communities, peoples, and CSOs throughout the whole DRRM process. In terms of the overall implementation of the goals of RA10121, the government must assess how RA 10121 is translated into practice and the government must also ensure that all throughout its implementation various stakeholders know their roles and responsibilities. Integral to the process of localization is putting people at the center of humanitarian action, and RA10121 has emphasized that substantive partnerships and collaborations between all relevant stakeholders are essential to localize humanitarian action and to ensure that humanity and dignity are taken to heart.
Mr. RJ Marco Lorenzo Camarista Parcon is a Master’s student affiliated with the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree Programme in International Humanitarian Action. Previously, he worked at the Foreign Service Institute of the Philippines’ Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies as a Foreign Affairs Research Specialist.