The Attorney General Chambers Deputy Secretary for International and Commercial Services, Stephen Tiroyakgosi, has said Botswana’s lack of explicit disaster legislation would hamper mitigation in the wake of catastrophic occurrences of the magnitude of the 2009 Haiti earthquake, 2011 Japanese Fukushima Tsunami or the 2005 US Hurricane Katrina. He said that where the legislation exists, it is fragmented and only deals with prevention rather than protection, covering disasters indirectly focusing on inspection, licencing and the regulation of various processes.
“Thus mostly preventive, the legislation and regulation of occupational health and safety, which may lead to disasters in both the workplace and the environment, is scattered over a number of Acts of Parliament, under the custody of many Government Ministries. These include the Ministry of Local Government Factories Act, Ministry of Health, the Food Control Act, Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Resources, the Mines, Quarries Works and Machinery Act, Ministry of Environment, Wildlife & Tourism, The Atmospheric Pollution (Prevention) Act and Environmental Impact Assessment Act, and the Ministry of Agriculture Agrochemicals Act,” Tiroyakgosi said, giving an overview at a workshop of Disaster Law in Botswana at the International Disaster Response Law (IDRL) in Botswana. “Alongside are the Ministry of Transport’s 1993 Aviation Security Act, 1977 Air Navigation Regulations as well as Civil Aviation Investigation of Accidents Regulations.”
The workshop was facilitated by the Botswana Red Cross Society (BRCS) in conjunction with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and was held in Gaborone.
Tiroyakgosi said since there is no specific regulatory framework for dealing with disaster management, the challenge is: Is there need for legislation, specifically targeting post disaster activity?
The IFRC Disaster Law Coordinator for Africa, Sanne Boswijk, said Africa needs profound disaster legislation to overcome the absence of special laws facilitating and regulating international relief. The result has given birth to teething problems, such as unnecessary red tape, poor quality and coordination from some international providers.
He said that the way forward comprises core ideas encompassing domestic actors primary roles, responsibilities for international relief providers, and legal facilities governing international actors should be conditional to facilitate execution.
According to Boswijk, the International Disaster Relief (IDRL) guidelines are non-binding because they do not have a direct effect on any existing rights or obligations under domestic law.
“Their purpose is to contribute to national legal preparedness by providing guidance to states interested in improving their domestic legal, policy and institutional frameworks concerning international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance,” said Boswijk. “While affirming the role of domestic authorities and actors, they recommend minimum legal facilities to be provided to assist states and humanitarian organizations able to comply with the minimum standards of coordination, quality and accountability. It is hoped the use of the IDRL guidelines will enhance the quality and efficiency of international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance in order to better serve affected communities.”
However, over-regulation in some areas leads to unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks, slowing entry and distribution of relief, while under-regulation in others allows for poor quality and uncoordinated efforts.
The costs of providing international disaster relief or initial recovery assistance should normally be borne by the assisting state or humanitarian organization. However, assisting states may agree in advance with the affected state for the reimbursement of certain costs and temporary loan equipment.