Connective Cities at the Peer-Learning Workshop on Local and Regional Disaster Risk Reduction

Peer-to-peer Learning about Localization of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

Peer Learning Workshop from 12 - 14 September 2018 in Surabaya, Indonesia

To support local municipalities in their efforts on DRR, UCLG and UCLG-ASPAC organized a peer-learning workshop on DRR and the localization of the Sendai Framework. Connective Cities, the International Community of Practice for Sustainable Urban Development, supported the organization of the workshop in which also UNISDR, UN-Habitat, the Guangzhou Institute for Urban Innovation and the UCLG Taskforce on Territorial Prevention and Management of Crises were involved. The workshop took place from September 12-14, 2018 in the frame  of the UCLG Asia-Pacific Regional Conference in Surabaya, Indonesia. Representatives from more than 15 cities from Asia, Latin America, Oceania and Europe participated.  

The objective of the workshop was to provide a platform for international municipal experts to discuss challenges of DRR as well as to learn from each other through exchange of good practices. The workshop provided the opportunity for the participants to share their experiences and narratives with colleagues from other municipalities. This created a learning space in which knowledge and skills could be shared between municipalities.


The Asia-Pacific region (ASPAC) is the world’s most natural disaster-prone area, accounting for 71% of deaths caused by disasters according to UNISDR. As it is home to around 60% of the world population, disaster risk reduction (DRR) is crucial to ensure citizens protection and to reduce their vulnerability. However, it is evident that disasters generate not only human but also social and economic losses. Sustainable development therefore cannot be achieved without adequate actions to reduce disaster risks.

To provide effective and adequate measures on DRR, international efforts such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (SFDRR) are important steps towards a stronger commitment and subsequent action on DRR. The SFDRR highlights the significant shift from responding to hazards and disasters to managing the “risks” that create them and to reducing disasters and losses. Building upon the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, the Sendai Framework sets out four specific priorities for action:

  • Understanding disaster risk;
  • Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk;
  • Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience; and
  • Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response, and emphasizing the need to "build back better" in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.  

As the SFDRR highlights, local governments are key in taking action regarding the implementation of such an international framework. As municipalities are responsible to provide and secure technical and social infrastructure, as well as the security of its community members, they need to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of DRR measures. As DRR is an interdisciplinary challenge, this requires a network of multi-lateral stakeholders from various backgrounds, such as planning, sociology, economy and others.    

The peer learning workshop included following activities:  

  • A mayoral roundtable which showed the political relevance of the topic for local leaders  
  • A field visit to a nearby site which provided the participants with first-hand impressions of disaster response and long-term management.
  • The exchange of practices through poster sessions in which the participating cities presented their DRR success stories.  

As a result, an important exchange of wide-ranging know-how generated at municipal level about DRR and how to localize the Sendai Framework took place. Furthermore, the participants developed numerous ideas, which serve as a basis for further engagement and co-operation.

The Roundtable Discussion  

The roundtable discussion of local leaders and experts on DRR provided insights into the priorities of municipalities and the specific challenges at local level. The panel, which included representatives from local, regional and national level, agreed that stronger collaboration between all government levels is needed to achieve and localize the Sendai Framework for DRR and to make all territories more resilient. However, thanks to such global agendas, increased efforts of local and national governments and the support of networks such as UCLG, the panel was optimistic that DRR is an issue increasingly being tackled and that further progress will be achieved to make all territories and their citizens more resilient.  

The mayor of Iriga City, Madelaine Yorobe Alfelor, who commented that the Sendai Framework helps to mainstream disaster risk policies at local level, highlighted the importance of these international agendas for guidance. Furthermore, she pointed out the importance of disaster preparedness, which has made her city one of the most resilient in the Philippines. These efforts, together with the strict compliance of building standards have reduced the vulnerability of Iriga and its citizens significantly.  

However, without local approaches, DRR is not effective nor efficient. The representative of Jakarta, Deputy Governor for Environment and Spatial Planning Mr. Oswar Muadzin Mungkasa explained the central role of risk assessment for the establishment of risk reduction strategies and empasized the importance of DRR on local level. The city uses a resilience indicator as the basis for all policies and activities. Jakarta is very advanced in the mainstreaming of disaster risk aspects in legal frameworks, showing that the role of regional government is crucial to enable DRR policies. Jakarta is also working on a grand community-based DRR programme.

The representative of the city of Faridpur, Bangladesh, argued that DRR and resilience strategies are linked to local planning, and both, capacity and competences are increasing. He explained that legally enshrined development planning is crucial for DRR, especially in the context of challenges triggered by rapid urbanization such as informal settlements, lack of infrastructure, poor livelihoods and living environments.  

Still, councilor Sara Templeton added that in Christchurch, New Zealand, special focus is given to collaborating with communities to improve the resilience of the smallest administrative units. She highlighted the value of bottom-up approaches in resilience strategies as a crucial part of DRR.  

During the discussion, central issues of local governments regarding DRR were pointed out. Among others, they included the need of financial support from the regional and national level in order to invest in physical disaster mitigation measures. The city of Cologne thereby shared its example on how the local government ensured the financial support to construct new flood defenses valued 430 million euros. This major investment avoids the estimated damage of 50 million Euro of each disaster that occurs when the river Rhine is flooding the city. The city could mobilize central, regional and local budgets to stem the cost of a removable hydraulic wall. Moreover, the input of the city of Kathmandu pointed out that their experience on recovery was that in case of disasters, most resources come directly from the local community and not from other government levels. Their effort must be recognized and taken into account to maintain motivation among communities.

Field Visit to a Mud-Flow Disaster Site  

During the workshop, a field visit to Sidoarjo Regency in proximity to the city of Surabaya was organized . In 2006. a mud volcano erupted during drilling work, and the eruption caused severe social and economic damage. According to the National Agency established to manage the Sidoarjo Mudflow Disaster, the disaster caused the displacement of 12 villages and almost 40,000 people, due to the constant release of hot mud and gas. To control the damage and collect the dangerous mud, embankments were constructed to direct the mud flow towards the ocean without causing further damage to the local population. However, more than 800 hectares that are currently covered with mud, corresponding to twice the size of Central Park, cannot be rehabilitated and will suffer from further eruptions approximately for the next 20-30 years.  

The Sidoarjo Regency was the first actor to respond to the disaster and provide support to the affected citizens. During a meeting with representatives from the Sidoarjo Regency, the participants learned about the challenges of effective and adequate DRR in an environment in which political and economic interests contradict each other and thereby hinder adequate disaster management on local level.  

The visit to the Sidoarjo disaster site and the presentations from local experts gave the participants an idea of the enormous consequences of the disaster and the complex challenges faced by the local and regional governments. The walk on a stabilized mud-floated area and the view of the crater-filled landscape left a striking impression on all participants.


Download the workshop-program in English language here.

“Listen 2 Cities”: Case Studies of the Participating Local and Regional Governments  

Mayors and experts from Asia, Europe, Latin America and Oceania joined the peer learning workshop to share their cities’ case studies and experiences on DRR. The cases from Bogor and Tokyo from Asia, Bochum and Cologne from Germany, Sao Paulo from Latin America, and Christchurch from New Zealand, among others, enriched the learning experience and demonstrated how local action can make cities more resilient. The following summaries introduce the cities and their DRR experiences that were shared in the interactive discussions of peer groups about their good practices:  

1) Bochum - Municipal Administration and Management of Extraordinary Cases of Crises  

The city of Bochum is located in the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia, in Germany. With nearly 375,000 inhabitants, it is part of the Ruhr-Agglomeration, which is one of the main economic centers in Germany. As a German municipality, its administrative structure is embedded within the governmental structure of the Federal State of Germany and its states.  

In the event of an emergency, the city of Bochum works in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. Whereas the Federal Government is responsible for civil defense at national level, the Federal States are responsible for disaster management and policing. The Federal States also provide local authorities with special task forces for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) defense, and urban search and rescue (USAR), in cases of extraordinary and/or major events. At county level, the government supervises local emergency management, coordinates fire and rescue services, emergency medical services and explosive ordinance disposal. Finally, the responsibility of the mayor of a municipality is to manage and coordinate local fire and rescue services, emergency medical services as well as to provide for civil protection.  

In order to enhance the effectiveness of its emergency management, the city of Bochum follows a three-step procedure:  

  • Create awareness by informing about extraordinary situations
  • Assess public demands in extraordinary situations
  • Develop specific structures for appropriate reactions by the municipal government 

For the standardized management of emergencies and the appropriateness of reactions by the municipal government, the city of Bochum uses a guideline which differentiates between four escalation levels and defines appropriate measures depending on the severity of the emergency.  

As the guideline is applicable to various extraordinary situations such as heavy storms, floods, unforeseen staff shortages in the local government, ordnance clearance and others, it allows a standardized response to emergencies at municipal level. Together with the principle of subsidiarity in emergency management, it enhances the preparedness of municipal governments for extraordinary situations and crises and establishes an effective emergency management at municipal level.    

Download the presentation in English language here.

2) Bogor - Municipal Disaster Management Agency  

Bogor municipality is located nearly 60 km south of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. The focus of Bogor regarding disaster risk reduction and management is placed on the development of skills for volunteers and officers. In addition, the municipality has launched projects such as the Resilient Village Policy and the Safe School Project to create awareness and develop skills. The emphasis in skill-building for volunteers is on hazard assessment, first aid, survival training, shelter management, logistic management and search andrescue.  

Staff members and officers are given special training in vertical and water rescue, shelter management, logistic and apparatus management, the establishment and maintenance of a disaster database and information system and post-disaster needs assessment.  

The Resilient Village Policy project aims directly at villages to enable them to better regulate disaster relief in their territory. The main activities include the development of disaster management, community action and contingency plans. It also focusses on establishing early warning systems and improving the resilience of the local economic and natural environment.  

The Safe School Project is organized in collaboration with the national government and aims to increase the resilience of school facilities. Training sessions for staff and students on how to react in emergencies prepare them better for rapid response. Additionally, the improvement of the construction and location of educational facilities makes them less vulnerable to hazards.

Download the presentation in English language here.

3) Christchurch - Building Community Leadership Capacity for DRR

For the improvement of the city’s disaster risk management, the city council of Christchurch, New Zealand, relies on potentials existing within the local community. The city puts community facility networks, community boards and community governance teams at the center of the development of new disaster management plans as these actors know best the neighborhood and its residents. 

The city council facilitates the integration of existing community groups through the provision of financial, material and human resources, which encourage the development of their own plans for community resilience. 

Moreover, community governance teams, in cooperation with national agencies of civil defense, organize and moderate participatory events to support the different community groups. During the participatory events, multiple community resilience plans have already been developed and strong networks between the different social groups established. 

This participatory approach, which is called the “Leaders in Communities” programme, was established in 2014 to help members of the local community to engage in and lead community development. A multi-stakeholder governance group that designs, finances, resources, delivers and evaluates projects and programs supervises this ongoing program.  

The inclusive approach of the city council allows a better understanding of the issues, concerns and compelling needs of the residents in emergency situations. Furthermore, it functions as a catalyst or ignition point for different stakeholders to come together and discuss about needs, expectations and actions. Motivated by a shared purpose, the stakeholders are prepared to negotiate, compromise and put aside individual interests, allowing the development of community-based resilience plans with higher levels of ownership and commitments by the community members than commonly seen with regular disaster risk management approaches.  

Download the presentation in english language here.

4) São Paulo State - Coordination of Protection and Civil Defense  

The state of São Paulo, in the South of Brazil is greatly affected by landslides caused by heavy rainfalls during the wet season from November to March. To reduce the risk of material damage and human loss, the state government implemented the Civil Defense Preventive Plan (CDPP). The main objective was to optimize the available human and material resources and anticipate risk situations better. For this, the CDPP fostered communication between the different actors of the state system for protection and civil defense as well as the police and fire brigade emergency services, municipal civil defense teams and the communities themselves.  

The CDPP is based on the monitoring of rainfall indices, weather forecasts, field surveys and emergency calls. During the dry season in the months from April to November, preparatory activities such as training courses of staff and community members, publication of reports, registration of events and technical studies take place. A database was also established providing information on disasters with risk area mappings and meteorological data. Based on data from different external sources and the newly established database, the civil defense authorities at state and municipal level are able to differentiate the degree of emergency in four levels (No imminent risk, Attention, Alert and Emergency). Through this, a reliable warning system for affected municipalities could be established. It was consequently possible to take appropriate measures for disaster management, resulting in a reduction of affected municipalities and deaths caused by landslides in the state of São Paulo.

Download the presentation in English language here.

5) Tokyo - Measures Concerning Stranded People in Emergency Situations  

Tokyo (~9.5 million inhabitants) is the capital of Japan and the national political and economic center. Due to its location along major folds of the earth crust, the city faces a high risk of earthquakes and their side effects, including landslides and tsunamis, affecting millions of people’s lives and properties. Therefore, the aim of disaster management measures in Tokyo is primarily to save people’s lives and maintain functionality of the capital.  

After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the municipality realized the need to reestablish comprehensive disaster management measures in order to mobilize all the city’s resources. It became clear that cooperation between all the stakeholders had to be enhanced to foster self-help, mutual assistance and public help. Another important lesson learned was to undertake multiple measures to ensure the operation of backup services. This was particularly crucial as the measures in force at the time of the disaster of 2011were insufficient , causing traffic congestion, failure of the mobile phone network and leaving 3.5 million people stranded for hours (and in some cases even days).  

To improve the effectiveness of disaster management measures, particularly concerning stranded people, boards were set up to establish measures to be taken specifically for stranded people and an ordinance for measures concerning stranded people established. This was undertaken in cooperation with the private sector and representatives of the civil society. Today, the ordinance for measures concerning stranded people plays a critical role in disaster management as it provides a guideline for institutions and responsible actors in case of an emergency.  

Its aims are:  

  • To prevent people from heading home all at once.
  • To secure temporary shelters.
  • To provide communication tools and information services.
  • To assist people returning home.  

Due to the enhanced legal guidance on disaster management and financial support for the private sector, more than 50% of all employers enhanced their storage facilities for water and emergency foodstuffs. The number of temporary shelters has also increased, and more than 10,000 support stations have been established in schools, restaurants, convenience stores and other places to assist people on their way home in case of a disaster.    

Download the presentation in English language here.

6) Albay - Zero Casualty Strategy  

The province of Albay forms part of South-Eastern Luzon Island, Philippines. It has around 1.3 million inhabitants and is famous for the Mayon volcano, which is located on the outskirts of the regional capital of Legazpi. The Mayon volcano presents a major natural hazard and its periodic eruptions are putting several settlements at high risk. The region also suffers from typhoons, which hit the territory regularly and have caused major losses of life and property in the past. In addition, the province had no regular disaster management office or staff, and disaster risk reduction was not contemplated in the public budgets. To tackle these issues and significantly reduce the vulnerability of the citizens the regional government has launched its Zero Casualty Strategy, which aims to significantly reduce the risk of natural hazards. As a first step, a permanent disaster management office was established, and DRR was institutionalized through legal decrees.  

The heart of the strategy is an early warning system in combination with effective evacuation procedures. Potential disaster as the result of natural hazards therefore can be anticipated and affected citizens can be evacuated in time. The establishment of the regional early warning system needed significant financial investment as well as a shift in the culture of risk reduction. Societal participation was also crucial in the form of civil society groups and NGOs, which facilitated the establishment of efficient evacuation procedures. However, the efforts have paid off and for 19 years, not a single casualty caused by a natural hazard has been reported in the province of Albay. The massive renovation of disaster risk management significantly increased the province’s resilience to natural hazards.

Conclusions and the Way Ahead  

The peer-to-peer learning workshop demonstrated that the integration of disaster risk assessments in local and regional land use planning and policies is crucial to reduce the number of citizens who live in endangered zones. Moreover, raising awareness of the importance of DRR among citizens and government officers is central to ensure an efficient response in the event of an emergency. For this, the establishment of dedicated DRR departments in technical municipal services presents a significant first step of how local governments can improve their disaster risk management. The organizational set up of local public administrations and their efforts in legislative and educative measures are crucial to make their territory more resilient.  

Citizen participation and close collaboration with stakeholders like civil society organizations (CSOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector are a key factor for the creation of DRR strategies. Furthermore, clarity about the responsibilities of each government level in disaster risk reduction and response is required to ensure a smooth implementation of adequate measures. For this, a clear distribution of tasks, especially in emergency situations, can facilitate the efficient response of all relevant authorities.  

Finance is a central issue for good local and regional governance of DRR. Disaster mitigation, especially physical constructions, present massive financial challenges for local and regional governments. The dedication of sufficient national funds for this purpose is important, but activities for DRR must also be permanently reflected in local and regional budgets, and not just in the context of concrete disaster events. In addition, the sustainable use and management of ecosystems and the implementation of integrated environmental and natural resource management can also foster the resilience of municipalities. Finally, early warning systems in combination with evacuation plans need to be set up in order to mitigate the effects of what in some cases are inevitable hazards.  

The striking of certain hazards is neither predictable nor mitigatable. Therefore, preparedness is essential to enable citizens and authorities to respond effectively to a disaster. To ensure this, practices and drills are common and useful tools. However, these must be combined with the allocation of sufficient resources for emergencies such as shelters, food, medication and communication technology. Once a disaster has happened and the resilience of a municipality has reached its limit, external assistance is needed. Local and regional governments can support affected municipalities through decentralized cooperation and help to build back better, enabling the territory to increase its resilience through the recovery process. In this context, the improvement and implementation of building standards must be a central focus.  

The Way Ahead – Localizing the SFDRR  

During the workshop, local governments have demonstrated their commitment to disaster risk reduction and resilience through various initiatives and have a proven track record implementing innovative resilience and DRR actions. The various presentations and discussions allowed the participants to reflect upon the importance of the Sendai Framework in local DRR approaches. The objectives of the SFDRR thereby complement the goals of other global agendas, including the SDGs. The ultimate goal of localizing all global agendas and targets is to ensure the well-being and safety of all citizens in the villages, towns and cities.  

The aim of the SFDRR - to reduce risk and make cities more resilient - can only be achieved if local and regional governments are enabled to take on an active role in its implementation. UCLG and its partners commit assisting in awareness raising efforts and supporting the creation of an enabling environment in which local strategies and experiences can be brought to the national and global level.  

Local government capacity must be increased through more knowledge support from academic institutions, but also through technical assistance, tailor made tools and sharing of good practices. The four main areas of the Sendai Framework thereby guide the cities on how to become more resilient; cities that are capable of anticipating, reacting and recovering from unexpected events, both natural and manmade, and are further empowered to address new or unexpected challenges.  

Connective Cities thereby supports UCLG and its member cities to engage in exchange and cooperation for DRR. Building on the tradition of decentralized cooperation national, regional and local actors are encouraged to take an active role and to assist each other through a mutual learning process as well as through city-to-city cooperation and partnerships.