Capacity building

August 27, 2023

It is essential to establish mechanisms for resource mobilisation during civil emergencies

Capacity building


he cable car incident at Battagram has highlighted the oft neglected condition of the country’s rescue and relief capabilities in general. While big cities may have quicker or easier access to rescue, remote rural areas lack such facilities. Having a robust rescue infrastructure and trained workforce has never been more important as Pakistan has become more prone to natural disasters.

The role of provincial governance and policy making in reforming the rescue apparatus cannot be understated. Effective governance and sound policies serve as the foundation upon which a nation’s rescue capacity is built. This ensures that necessary resources are allocated efficiently and actions are coordinated effectively. The timeline of the incident at Battagram also reflects on such matters apart from the fact that the area had no access to emergency and rescue facilities to conduct the risky operation.

It is imperative to recognise that rescue governance and policy framework provide the framework for the entire disaster management cycle. This cycle comprises mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery phases. Effective governance ensures that policies are well-conceived, adaptive and attuned to the dynamic nature of accidents or disasters. It also ensures that resources are allocated efficiently and transparently to various aspects of rescue capacity, including training, equipment and infrastructure development.

The enactment and implementation of Provincial Disaster Management Acts play a pivotal role in this process, providing the legal and operational guidelines for disaster management activities at the provincial level. These acts define the roles and responsibilities of provincial authorities, establish mechanisms for resource allocation and coordination, grant emergency powers when needed and promote public awareness and compliance. They serve as a crucial link between disaster management policies and localised response efforts, ensuring that management is tailored to the specific needs and challenges of each province. The Act also calls for sustaining local rescue departments with the necessary equipment and manpower to act as the first respondents.

The Act is subject to periodic review and amendment, allowing for continuous improvement and adaptation to evolving circumstances and best practices. In this way, the Provincial Disaster Management Act provides the fundamental approach to handling any crisis or emergency.

One of the pillars of rescue governance is the development and implementation of standardised protocols and procedures. Pakistan’s diverse geographical and climatic conditions necessitate tailored strategies for various types of disasters. Such protocols serve as the bedrock upon which rescue operations are built, ensuring that responders act cohesively and efficiently during a crisis.

While governance and policy provide the framework for effective rescue capacity, they must also adapt to evolving technologies and emerging challenges. Research and development play a pivotal role in this regard.

Rescue governance and policy should also focus on fostering collaboration at various levels. At the national level, inter-agency cooperation among government departments responsible for rescue and disaster management is crucial. This cooperation should be formalised through policies that mandate coordination, information sharing and joint exercises. At the regional and local levels, partnerships with civil society organisations, community groups and international agencies are equally important. These partnerships expand the reach of rescue operations and ensure that resources are pooled for a more effective response.

Pakistan must also invest in capacity building for its rescue workforce, encompassing paramedics, firefighters and disaster response teams. Governance policies should outline training requirements and standards, ensuring that personnel are equipped with the necessary skills to perform their duties effectively. Regular drills and exercises, as mandated by policy, not only keep responders sharp but also enable the evaluation and refinement of rescue procedures.

While rescue governance focuses on preparedness and response, a holistic policy framework should also emphasise disaster risk reduction. This entails identifying vulnerabilities and implementing measures to reduce the impact of disasters before they strike. Had the authorities kept a safety check on the chairlift, the risks may have been reduced.

In addition to these aspects, policy should encourage the establishment of regional response centres strategically located across the country. These centres serve as coordination hubs during disasters, ensuring that resources are dispatched promptly to affected areas. Policies should specify the infrastructure and resources required for these centres and outline their operational procedures.

The financial aspect of rescue governance and policy cannot be ignored. Adequate funding and resource allocation are vital to building and sustaining rescue capacity. Budgetary commitments must be outlined in policies, ensuring that there are dedicated funds available for equipment, training, infrastructure development and research. It is also essential to establish mechanisms for resource mobilisation during civil emergencies.

While governance and policy provide the framework for effective rescue capacity, they must also adapt to evolving technologies and emerging challenges. Research and development play a pivotal role in this regard.

Strengthening rescue capacity in Pakistan is a task that necessitates a comprehensive approach, encompassing governance and policy as critical components. Effective rescue governance provides the framework for coordinated, efficient and transparent disaster response. Pakistan needs to expand the operations and resources of Rescue 1122 along with the fire departments across all the provinces and in the rural areas under the provincial laws so that the units are empowered and can handle single-case emergencies on their own. Sound policies only outline the protocols, legislation, partnerships and resource allocation necessary for building and sustaining rescue capacity; building an effective rescue system requires financial and equipment support and maintenance in order to avoid such incidents in the future.

The writer is an independent media and foreign policy analyst. She tweets @MsAishaK

Capacity building