CCOUC Director Prof Emily Chan was invited to participate in a focus group discussion among UNDRR, UNDP, IFRC, and other independent experts from around the Asia Pacific region on 25 February 2021 to share perspectives and learnings about the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on existing disaster management laws and policies in India. Key discussion points were raised around harmonising disaster management with public health; defining roles and responsibilities within management frameworks; the importance of multi-hazard and multi-sectoral coordination; accountability of service providers and definition of essential services; data collection, sharing, and use; and balancing between state power and individual autonomy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has become a unique, protracted crisis, with a varying risk profile based on differential vulnerability all over the world. As a result, COVID-19 has provided a unique learning opportunity for governments and legislators to review and adjust existing disaster management frameworks, in particular with regards to responding to biological hazards. Risks to health, as well as the advice of the medical community, should be taken into consideration when developing disaster response and management tools. Developing multi-hazard approaches to disaster management requires functional, yet flexible, recommendations to ensure all members of a population are supported. Furthermore, governments should consider a review of communication strategies that are streamlined between government, public health experts, and the general population.
Going forward, the management of protracted crises will require the formulation of new legislation that is improved to include the perspectives and terminology of government experts, disaster risk reduction experts, data experts, risk communication experts, and the medical community.
The results of the discussion will contribute to the revision of the National Disaster Management Act of India.