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Workings of the new business disaster council

Manasa Kalouniviti
Friday, August 05, 2016

THE Fiji Business Disaster Council, also known as the Fiji Business Disaster Resilience Council, which was launched on July 22, was first discussed by stakeholders at an initial planning workshop in Suva in April.

The newly-established council was also announced at the special session for the Connecting Business Initiative (CBI) at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in Turkey in May this year.

It constitutes the first real step to harness private sector involvement in the Government's disaster emergency preparedness, response and recovery process.

"Disasters know no boundaries; it cuts across all sectors of the economy which is why the private sector needs to be involved," Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation CEO Nesbitt Hazelman had said when the council was launched.

The council is incorporated under the FCEF and will draw its membership from the members of the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO).

Summarised below are some of the main features of the new council, its aims and visions, and plans going forward:

Membership

Networking membership will be inclusive and not be limited to the private sector and will include Government, civil society organisations, NGOs and international organisations, associations and chambers of commerce members.

Sitting members would normally be the business continuity, disaster risk reduction or disaster relief focal point or a decision-maker within a business organisation, with a direct link to the chief executive, or a senior manager of the organisation.

Advisers to this council would normally be representatives from the Government, civil society, NGOs and the United Nations, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, OCHA, UNDP, UNISDR, World Food Program, Fiji Red Cross, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and Fiji Council of Social Services.

Sitting members

The council's chair is George Peckham of Goodman Fielder and vice-chair is Leonard Chan of BSP. The other working group members are Asleo Care, CDP, Coca-Cola Amatil, Digicel, FCOSS, Homelink Security, Ministry of Local Government, Housing and Environment, NDMO, PIPSO, RC Manubhai, Star Printery, Vinod Patel, Vodafone and UNDP OCHA and UNISDR.

Aims and vision

To work and support businesses withstand and recover from disasters, as well as strengthen their engagement in emergency preparedness, response and recovery efforts in collaboration with the Government, the United Nations, NGOs and civil society organisations.

Concept

Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston, which struck Fiji in February, impacted businesses of all sizes and across all sectors, disrupting supply chains and distribution channels and brought about loss of stock and damage to premises.

Despite this, a large number of local and regional businesses from a variety of industry sectors made, and continue to make, significant contributions towards the humanitarian response and recovery efforts.

Severe TC Winston highlighted the need to strengthen the resilience of businesses to withstand and recover from disasters, and to maximise the opportunities for engagement, co-ordination and information sharing between businesses, the Fijian Government, international organisations and civil society organisations well before disasters occur.

This led to the need for businesses, Government and other stakeholders to join forces to build a private sector-led network for disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness, response and recovery for Fiji, hence, the formation of the council.

Working with Government going forward

The Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management is supportive of the private sector integration in the National Disaster Management Organisation processes and would consider a private sector representative at the Disaster Management Council (DISMAC).

Support has also been received from the Assistant Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment.

The council was also formally endorsed by the prime minister at the UN World Humanitarian Summit in May in Istanbul Turkey showing a real commitment of the Fijian Government to create meaningful and long-term relationships with the private sector to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

Immediate/long-term plans

The Fiji Business Disaster Resilience Council will:

* strengthen the capacity of businesses and the communities in which they operate;

* operate a local co-ordination architecture and a clear entry point for the private sector;

* act as a business network that connects, strengthens and expands business through ongoing initiatives, existing networks and programs to engage the private sector in disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness, response and recovery;

* provide access to resources to mobilise and support business engagement through a portal or mobile app;

* deliver training to build the capacity and resilience of businesses and the communities; and

* connect businesses to Government, international organisations, civil society organisations and other actors to identify and match needs before, during and after emergencies.

The council will also allow companies to come together in a non-competing environment with a common goal to prepare for disasters and rebuild disaster affected areas.








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