Thailand and UNDP launch initiative to boost disaster management capacity

21 Sep 2012

imageThe 2011 floods affected more than 11 million people in 64 Thai provinces. (PHOTO: SHERMAINE HO/IRIN)

BANGKOK-- In late 2011, flood waters swept through Thailand, affecting more than 11 million people.  A year has passed since floodwaters inundated most of the country and metropolitan  Bangkok, but the Royal Thai Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are determined to make the heavy toll of natural disasters a thing of the past.  The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation and UNDP  have launched a new initiative to boost the capacity of the Department to be able to respond to large-scale floods and other natural disasters.

DDPM is the central agency in Thailand responsible for coordinating disaster response and disaster risk reduction.

“This partnership with UNDP is an opportunity to enhance the level of knowledge and the disaster management capacity of Thailand to acceptable international standards,” said Wiboon Sanguanpong, Director-General of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.

“Disaster severity is increasing and is impacting Thailand to a much greater extent. Department staff and the organization as a whole need to learn new knowledge and skills to deal with the increasing complexity.”

The Royal Thai Government, through the DDPM is contributing more than $150,000 to the new partnership in the first year alone, signaling the government's strong commitment to this critical management capacity improvement.

The initiative will strengthen the capacity of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation to adapt to disasters when they occur, by boosting the institutional capacity of both the Department and related line ministries to be better prepared to address climate change and environmental security issues. DDPM is a relatively new agency, and during the 2011 floods, there were capacity gaps in their ability to address duties and responsibilities under the law.

The three-year, $1.2 million initiative’s main purpose is to reduce the vulnerability of the millions of people affected in 2011 to future flooding. The 2011 floods were unprecedented. One-fifth of the Southeast Asian nation was inundated with water affecting more than 3 million households in 64 Thai provinces.

In assessing Thailand’s flood response, UNDP and DDPM discovered a number of challenges to Thailand’s disaster management system. Few anticipated a flood of that magnitude and existing policies did not have the capacity to assist in a range of rescue and recovery operations. Further, post-disaster needs assessments could have been better conducted to understand Thailand’s recovery needs.

Thailand examined its policies related to disaster preparedness after the 2004 tsunami, and is doing so again. UNDP has been working on the ground with the DDPM for nearly a year with technical experts stationed at DDPM offices to give on the spot advice. Two UNDP experts, one international and one Thai expert evaluated Thailand’s Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act, the National Disaster and Mitigation Plan, and the Strategic National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction and assessed capacity gaps in order to design this new initiative.

“This is a partnership as much as it is a project signing. The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation has been involved from the project’s conception and their plans for implementation are exceptional,” said Luc Stevens, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Thailand.

“The trust that UNDP has built with the Department over the last several months are evidence of two agencies working in concert.”

Stevens said that the partnership puts UNDP in a unique position to provide support Thailand, a middle-income country, of which UNDP is a recognized expert and provider of quality technical assistance and knowledge management services on early recovery and disaster risk reduction.

Thailand ranks as the seventh most flood prone country in the world. By 2030, economic impacts from climate change are projected to place Thailand as the fourth most affected country in the world after the United States, Russia and Japan.