Views from the frontline: a critical assessment of local risk governance in South Africa

16 August 2013

In 2005 the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction introduced the ‘Hyogo Framework for Action’ (HFA) aimed at mainstreaming disaster risk reduction. Subsequently, the ‘Global Network for Disaster Reduction’ (GNDR) was formed to support the implementation of the HFA. The GNDR initiated a country-based, international research project called ‘Views from the Frontline’ (VFL) in order to measure progress at local level in terms of compliance with the HFA. The VFL 2011 project focused on local risk governance, which is critical for effective implementation of policy and provision of resources at grassroots level. This article provides insight into the findings for South Africa. The project made use of quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data was gathered by means of a survey and/or questionnaire consisting of 20 questions on ‘indicators’ which assessed progress toward the goals of the HFA. The surveys also provided for qualitative commentary. The target population for this research consisted of local government officials and community representatives. Based on the quantitative scores for all the different indicators, the research showed that South Africa could still improve significantly in terms of compliance with the HFA. More attention must be given to operationalise the HFA at local level, a culture of safety must be fostered, local actors and communities must be involved directly and consulted, indigenous knowledge must be recognised, and significant capacity development for disaster risk reduction is necessary.