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Poverty Times #3

Involve business in disaster reduction!

by John Reed

Disasters, natural or man-made, are of course extremely disruptive to business. Learning to cope with disaster has been painful for business. Many small businesses never recover from the effects of disaster, even if insured, and the insurance business, especially re-insurance, fears that several major disasters in short succession could be disastrous to itself.

Disaster management in the corporate/ business sector is seen as both a humanitarian and a business activity. A community depends on local business, and especially in poor countries the effects of disasters can be long-lasting. Looking at the broad picture, business sees disaster management as a strategy to protect a nation’s potential for growth. In practical terms this means adequate measures to protect both business and the community. Clearly this is a viewpoint that government can share.

However, on the positive side, business has had a great deal of experience in mitigating their effects. The business sector has much to offer to government and other stakeholders, at national and local level, in their management. An enormous potential is there. What is needed is improved coordination between business, government and others.

Business can provide both emergency help and long-term assistance. In an emergency the business sector can deliver such essentials as technical manpower and goods. At present these services are largely untapped. Looking at the long-term, busi-ness now has well-developed, mature approaches to environmental management. Its systematic approach to such matters can be applied to disaster management.

Local authorities need to provide a framework for unleashing the full potential of the business sector. Policies that contribute to safer industry are obviously an incentive for business to be more involved in disaster management. Business should be invited to participate in policy decisions affecting national and regional land use. Developments in upland areas, for example, can affect fl ood control. Flooding is often a consequence of the impacts of unsustainable agricultural and forestry management practices.

John Reed is is environment correspondent for the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Geneva.