Lao PDR National Disaster Management Office

Author: 
UNDP

The story of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao-PDR, or Laos as it is more popularly called) is a story of how consistent and effective investments in leadership and in an institution have been successful in supporting its transformation into a capable and effective player in the field of Disaster Risk Management (DRM).

The Mekong, one of the world’s largest rivers, is the lifeline of Laos. Its beautiful hinterland generates tourism revenues, and its plentiful water generates hydro-electricity that is sold mostly to neighbouring Thailand. It is the Mekong River, however, that brings the scourge of flooding and loss of assets and livelihoods. Riverine storms damage houses and sweep away livestock.

During the 1990s, UNDP was instrumental in supporting NDMO and building it up as a lynchpin agency in Laos. Then came a period when UNDP de-prioritized the disaster management sector in Laos. Equally, Laos itself had a relatively disaster free time and NDMO gradually lost the interest of donors. Once NDMO became underfunded, it was downgraded to a small office, losing most of its staff, equipment and infrastructure. Worst of all, the perception of NDMO – whether among the population, among donors, among NGOs, and among fellow government agencies – was that of a weak institution. So acute was the loss of capacity that when an occasional storm surge hit the Mekong, NDMO staff sent out early warning signals by text messaging through their personal cell-phones. Even as the Avian Influenza hit South-East Asia, the confidence in NDMO was at such a low point that the government and donors set up a parallel agency to deal with the flu, bypassing NDMO completely.

This situation began to change after Laos signed the ‘Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015’ (HFA), on disaster reaction that bound the country to deliver on its commitments.

Response

At the request of the Government, UNDP helped assess the nature of the problem of the NDMO, and develop a strategy to address it. A plan was developed to raise NDMO’s profile and to strengthen its capacity to fulfil its mandate, consisting of the following:

  • Incrementally enhancing NDMO’s capacity to deal with disasters by: strengthening its early warning system, training communities on how to respond to disasters, strengthening the capacity of NDMO to coordinate the response to a disaster, and establishing standard operating procedures for disaster reduction and response.
  • Ensuring NDMO receive strong political support and visibility, ensuring that the institution is guided by a strong leadership, ensuring adequate funding and the power to influence policy choices, including decisions on resource allocation.
  • Delegating NDMO the responsibility of leading the process of developing the Laos National Disaster Management Strategy and to follow up on the commitments arising from the Hyogo Framework for Action.

Results

The National Disaster Management Office in Lao PDR has made great strides in its ability to lead Disaster Management Planning, and provides training and disseminates information on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Disaster Risk Management (DRM) to government agencies. From a small office providing only secretariat services to the National Disaster Management Committee of the government, the Office has grown to an entity which leads the planning for Disaster Management in the country.

While NDMO still continues to grow stronger, there is evidence of its success: the Prime Minister has stated that NDMO’s mandate goes beyond serving as the secretariat to the National Disaster Management Committee. NDMO has emerged as a leading institution in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Disaster Risk Management (DRM) in the country. It continues to work with the ASEAN Working Group on DRR and DRM providing support to other disaster management offices in neighboring countries. The leadership is continuously pushing for and has considerably strengthened its human and financial resource base.

INGOs and the Government of Lao PDR are now committed to engaging more closely with NDMO, ensuring that it plays an ever larger and significant role in the country and the region, on DRR and DRM issues, and beyond.

Year of publication: 
2010
Collection: 
UNDP Capacity is Development: Stories of Institutions
Country: 
LAO PEOPLE'S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
Themes and sectors: 
Disaster preparedness and mitigation

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