Disaster Law

Legal gaps in disaster risk reduction can have a significant impact on the resilience of communities to disasters.  Similarly, experience shows that without the appropriate legal instruments to deal with disaster response, authorities can be overwhelmed by relief operations and vital aid can be delayed.  Disaster Law contributes to more effective disaster preparedness and getting relief to vulnerable people faster. [IFRC]

Community Organization

Legislation is a key tool to enhance disaster risk reduction, in particular at the community level where progress is lagging. Recent studies show that legal frameworks on disaster risk reduction fall short in many countries when it comes to relevance and applicability at the community level.

  • Good laws strengthen community and civil society involvement in disaster risk reduction and planning.
  • Good laws reduce the underlying risks from natural hazards by making the built environment safer, setting realistic and enforceable standards for land management and construction and ensures community-level risk mapping to keep people out of harm’s way.
  • Good laws guarantee adequate funding for risk reduction at the community level.
  • Effective legislation can mandate education about disaster risk
  • Laws and regulations can promote community engagement in risk reduction activities, ensure the implementation of building codes and land-use regulations, and provide accountability for results.

[Source: IFRC, Strengthening Disaster laws]

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Local and National Government

The IFRC’s Disaster Law Database provides legal and policy instruments related to disaster management from the international, regional, national, provincial and local levels as well as References to articles, book chapters and reports relevant to disaster law.

Click here to open the IFRC’s Disaster Law Database.

Disaster Law seeks to reduce human vulnerability by promoting legal preparedness for disasters and playing a critical role in reducing disaster risk. Having an effective disaster law legislation is crucial in international disaster response, disaster risk reduction at the community level, and emergency and transitional shelter.

We can reduce the impact of hazards on our communities in many ways, including effective early warning systems, physical protective structures, controls on land use in high-risk areas, and education and involvement of communities in taking steps to reduce their own risks. Effective legislation can help to ensure the success of all of these efforts.

There are a several international instruments that should be considered in developing a Red Cross and Red Crescent approach to legislative advocacy on risk reduction.

1.1 Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015. The Hyogo Framework identifies five “priorities for action” for governments, civil society and other actors:

  • Ensure that disaster risk reduction is a national and a local priority with  a strong institutional basis for implementation.
  • Identify, assess and monitor disaster risks and enhance early warning.
  • Use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels.  
  • Reduce the underlying risk factors.
  • Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels.

In connection with “Priority 1,” the Framework calls on governments to “adopt, or modify where necessary, legislation to support disaster risk reduction, including regulations and mechanisms that encourage compliance and that promote incentives for undertaking risk reduction and mitigation activities.”

The Hyogo Framework is not legally binding, but it has attained a very high level of political support from states at the international level and an impressive influence on the development of policy and plans at the national level.

1.2 Human rights instruments

  • Advocates have called for the development of an internationally recognized “right to safety,” a legal obligation of states to accept a “duty to reduce the risk of disasters.”

1.3 Red Cross and Red Crescent instruments

  • National Societies from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have adopted a number of internal strategy and guidance documents relevant to law and disaster risk reduction that encourages national societies to “review their existing legislation and policies to fully integrate disaster risk reduction strategies into all relevant legal, policy and planning instruments” (IFRC,  “Agenda for Humanitarian Action”, 2003), and “to develop and implement laws, policies and plans that promote DRR at the community level.” (IFRC, “Framework for Community Safety and Resilience”, 2008) and “advocate for laws, government policies, and incentives for risk reduction measures” (IFRC Strategy 2020).

[Source: IFRC, Legislative Advocacy for Disaster Risk Reduction Legislative Advocacy Guidance Note No. 1]