The Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience together with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s (CPA) Small Branches network organised a workshop on disaster risk management which was attended by Members of Parliament from 13 small Parliaments in the Commonwealth.
The workshop, hosted at the City of London’s Guildhall in the UK, from 24 to 26 May 2023, connected Parliamentarians from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other small jurisdictions with world-leading academics and practitioners from the field of disaster risk management.
Across three days of sessions, participants shared their personal experiences of disasters and their impact on small communities, including hurricanes, the COVID-19 pandemic and landslides, and discussed strategies for effective disaster risk management, informed by the latest research.
The Chairperson of the CPA Small Branches network, Joy Burch, MLA, Speaker of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, attended the workshop. Reflecting on the lessons learned across the three days, she said:
“I would like to thank all the academics from the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience at Durham University and the other world-leading experts who have shared their deep expertise with us this week. The workshop has been an excellent learning opportunity for Members, and I expect us all to go back to our Parliaments with clear ideas about how to strengthen disaster planning.”
Members from the Cayman Islands, Fiji, Isle of Man, Sikkim (India), Tonga and Turks & Caicos Islands presented on their experiences of recent disasters affecting their jurisdictions. Lord Fakafanua, Speaker of the Fale Alea (Legislative Assembly) o’Tonga, gave a compelling testimony on the impact of the 2022 Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai volcanic eruption and tsunami. He described the psychological trauma experienced by the Tongan community and issues with co-ordination, communication and insurance during the disaster recovery period.
Workshop convenor Professor Kate Cochrane, Professor in Practice at the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience and Head of Resilience for NHS Highland, added:
“I have really enjoyed organising this workshop and bringing together colleagues from across the field of disaster risk management to provide Members of Parliament with a truly holistic and systemic perspective on what effective disaster planning, resilience and recovery looks like. I am excited to see how the lessons from the workshop are taken forward across the Commonwealth.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony, CPA Secretary-General Stephen Twigg said:
“The CPA Small Branches network has played a critical role in supporting small Parliaments and giving them a voice within the wider CPA membership. This workshop forms part of a growing body of work on issues relating to sustainable development, climate change, the environment, biodiversity and disaster risk.
The CPA Small Branches workshop was convened following discussions on disaster risk management at the 65th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Halifax, Canada in August 2022. In February 2023, the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience also hosted a sandbox experiment on ‘Disasters and their consequences: developing new research partnerships with small jurisdictions’, exploring similar themes to the workshop.