Disaster risk management

Project description

Title: Disaster risk management
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: China
Lead executing agency: Chinese Academy of Governance
Overall term: 2009 to 2012


China is one of the countries worst affected by disasters. Frequent hydrometeorological and geological hazards as well as accidents in industrial plants and public health repeatedly cause major economic losses. These losses are estimated at between 6% and 8% of the country’s gross domestic product. China has been trying to reform its disaster risk management for quite some time. The nation’s constitution was amended to meet these new challenges and the Emergency Response Law was subsequently adopted in 2007. In addition, functional and sectoral emergency plans have been drawn up at all administrative levels. However, major disasters (such as the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008) have demonstrated that the management strategy is still weak during the acute phase immediately after the disaster. Both vertical and horizontal coordination and communication can be slow and fragmentary, which leads to delays in help reaching the people affected by the disaster.


The Chinese administration is increasingly using a coherent, effective and efficient disaster risk management system at multiple administrative levels.


The project has two components. The first of these provides advice on optimising the national disaster risk management system, focusing in particular on risk analysis and emergency planning. The second component supports the development of the newly founded National Institute of Emergency Management (NIEM) and is implementing two pilot projects to improve the initial emergency response to disasters.

In collaboration with the China Earthquake Administration (CEA), the project is supporting pilot training courses in Sichuan to enable qualified first-aiders to act as multipliers based on a concept developed by the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group of the United Nations (UN-INSARAG). In the Municipality of Tianjin the project is helping to establish an integrated disaster response team that can react to events more quickly and with greater coordination.

By providing advisory services to NIEM and the various provincial administration colleges, the project is helping to implement the changes targeted by the first component. NIEM and the provincial administration colleges cooperate closely with the Emergency Management Offices (EMO) at the different levels. The EMOs work with all departments and report directly to the executive management, which enables them to make major contributions to establishing a flexible, clearly structured system.

Many other key actors are involved in the project, including the China Earthquake Administration, the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) and the German Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK), as well as the United Nations and the International Red Cross. The involvement of these actors makes it possible to establish sustainable, qualified exchanges.

Results achieved so far

NIEM’s basic structure has now been established. NIEM is already providing training on crisis management to managers within the administration. In contrast to past training sessions, which were structured as lectures, trainers are now using new teaching methods and making the sessions more practice-oriented with exercises and case studies. The participants learn how to react to acute disaster situations faster and in a more structured manner.

Based on the workshops and training sessions, the City of Yiyang (in Hunan Province) now runs annual exercises with all the actors involved in disaster risk management. These are led by the mayors and operational staff.

Based on the advice received from the project, the Municipality of Tianjin is establishing an integrated disaster response team involving all the operational actors in the area. This is helping to broaden and strengthen the capacity of the fire service to provide technical assistance following a disaster. As a result, contact between the operational forces and the administration has been intensified. These key actors have worked together to develop standardised coordination mechanisms that allow unified management in emergency situations. Tianjin is pioneering measures within China to improve coordination and response capability.

In collaboration with the Emergency Management Office, Jiulongpo District (within the direct-controlled Municipality of Chongqing) is applying a new approach to risk management and emergency planning. The available data on hazards and risks are being organised and expanded. This provides officials with a coherent overview enabling them to identify any gaps in the protection currently in place and it also helps them to optimise resource allocation. This knowledge can then be integrated into the emergency planning process.