VietNamNet Bridge – Panellists discussed the importance of disaster risk management policies in the private sector at the launch in Ha Noi last week of the United Nations 2013 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. The Viet Nam News has garnered some opinions.

Vietnam urged to safeguard firms from natural disasters

Businesses ill-prepared for natural disasters

Bakhodir Burkhanov, UNDP Deputy Country Director in Viet Nam

As Viet Nam will adopt the first ever Law on Disaster Risk Management soon and move toward its implementation, I would like to share a few thoughts.

The importance of thorough disaster risk assessment as part of decision making in private and public sector investments cannot be over-emphasised. Development planning that is disaster-conscious and resilient is vital. It is encouraging that the draft law emphasises risk assessment, which becomes even more important in the context of climate change. The challenge is to ensure the availability of risk information that is accessible publicly and utilised for generating comprehensive risk reduction measures beyond business continuity plans.

Furthermore, the law and its implementation guidelines should create a policy and regulatory framework for private sector participation in disaster risk reduction. A public-private partnership strategy that provides appropriate incentives and a level playing field for the private sector to engage in disaster risk management is needed. The MoU between the Central Committee for Disaster Management and the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industries is a good first step. The partnership between the Government, civil society organisations and international development partners in support of community-based disaster risk management is another positive example.

Multi-stakeholder participation will be essential in promoting information and knowledge sharing and stronger accountabilities in disaster risk reduction. Activating the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation adopted by the Government last year will provide an excellent opportunity for the participation of private sector and other stakeholders in Viet Nam.

Nguyen Huu Phuc, director of the Disaster Management Centre, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

The Government in Viet Nam has focused on policies in disaster risk reduction for a long time.

A thousand years ago, people in Viet Nam constructed dyke systems to protect them from flooding. The Tran Dynasty [1225-1400] instructed riverside villages to construct dykes, and just a few days after the birth of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam in 1945, late President Ho Chi Minh also made a decision to set up a central committee for flood control.

Now there are more than 6,000 reservoirs in Viet Nam for purposes such as flood control, power generation, water use and other environmental purposes.

Every year, we issue laws related to the environment. So far, there are about 200 laws and under-laws related to the area. However, there are gaps between policies and reality. We need to learn from NGOs and other countries to reduce those gaps.

Jerry Velasquez, Regional Coordinator, United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Asia Pacific

I think it's very good and a unique example of how countries understand risk.

Look at other countries like Japan. For the earthquake in 2011, we watched to see how the Government would deal with the disaster. If it did its very best, it was still not enough. The amount of people who died and the losses were unacceptable. The Vietnamese government says we need to involve the private sector, so they've set a five year target for all large companies to have business continuity planning (BCP) ideas. Seventy per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should have BCPs as well.

In other countries like Singapore which aren't prone to disasters, they still have a lot of security-related fests. And for the SMEs, the government says that if they need a BCP, funding will be made available.

In Viet Nam, you already have the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) as a foundation to help SMEs form BCPs. There are many SMEs in Viet Nam. To reach them all, you need a lot of people who know how to develop BCPs. I think we should encourage the VCCI to train more people in this field. This would reduce the number of bankruptcies in SMEs due to disasters.

In the case of Viet Nam, I think you should try to determine how much of the risk the Government can reduce and how much you want the private sector to help. Then you can set targets.

Dao Xuan Hoc, former Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

Planning is an important step in disaster risk reduction. It ensures sustainable development.

However, planning is the responsibility of many different ministries and sectors, and this can lead to overlapping and weak co-operation.

This has led to the waste of resources while sectors have failed to co-operate for sustainable development.

For example, there are two programmes going on in parallel in Viet Nam at the moment. One is the programme on climate change under the management of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, while the other on disaster risk reduction is under the management of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. I think we need to connect these two programmes to avoid wasting resources.

Hitoshi Baba, Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) senior advisor

JICA has already started an intensive study about BCP for business continuity management systems in ASEAN countries, including Viet Nam. We selected Hai Phong together with areas in Jakarta (Indonesia) and Manila (the Philippines) to trial BCPs.

So why are they needed? The BCP is the only international standard methodology to reduce the impacts and damage caused by disasters to enterprises.

But the BCP is limited because it relies on public sector infrastructure that is undamaged and still functioning, including resources, power, energy, water, communications and transportation. However, in the case of big disasters, we need to allocate the resources accordingly, and form a system of areas of management.

Source: VNS