Within the Institutional Framework for Disaster Management in the Solomon Islands, the Protection Committee is one of six committees established under section 97 of the NDMP, under the national Disaster Operations Committee (N-DOC). It is chaired by the Ministry of Women, Youths, Children and Family Affairs (MWYCFA).
Protection in Solomon Islands disaster management
The Solomon Islands Government (SIG) has adopted the regional Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP) of which the third goal is of utmost relevance to the work of the Protection Committee, for strengthened disaster preparedness, response and recovery. Included in the priority actions are: the use of sex and age disaggregated data and data for vulnerable groups, inclusive and gender-responsive decision-making systems, human rights-based approaches, ensuring messaging on humanitarian services reaches vulnerable people, protection of individuals and communities, gender-sensitive disaster preparedness and response arrangements, addressing the specific needs of vulnerable groups, a culturally inclusive approach, and supporting the protection of individuals and communities most vulnerable to post-disaster displacement and migration.
The SIG takes a proactive approach to disaster management, and recognises that, while disasters can affect anyone, the most vulnerable people are often most affected, and without specific focus, can face a long and difficult road to recovery. Disasters may compromise the safety, wellbeing, and dignity of disaster-affected people, and may exacerbate any pre-existing gender inequalities and protection challenges relating to social discrimination, exclusion, violence, abuse, exploitation, or neglect of vulnerable individuals/groups (e.g. women, girls and boys, older people, and people with different abilities and identities).
Protecting human rights and promoting equality is central to humanitarian action and in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. The situation, needs, vulnerabilities, capacities and opportunities of women, girls, boys and men are different. Understanding those differences enables preparedness activities which reduce vulnerability and improve resilience, and response activities which are inclusive, participatory, non-discriminatory, do not cause harm, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The NDMP has a strong focus on protection, including “community inclusiveness – including gender, the needs of marginalised groups, those in remote locations, those with disabilities and the elderly”, and “recognises community and individual rights and is based on a concern for equity and fairness and for gender and minority group issues”. A core response function of disaster management operations is protection, gender and child specific issues of welfare and safety, and the needs of vulnerable or marginalised groups, and similarly at the village level, “particular attention shall be given to the first line protection and needs of women, children and other vulnerable groups” such as people with disabilities. The specific role of women in disaster management is underscored in the NDMP, including that “the involvement of women in arrangements at all levels is critical”, and sections 60, 71 and 91 set out mandatory requirement including there being at least two women in each committee, working group or team addressing relief distribution and shelter. The PC endorses the role of women, and also endorses inclusion of the range of diversity within society, in decisions and actions relating to disaster management.
In addition to the definitions in section 32 of the NDMP, the following key concepts and terms apply to this TOR:
Protection refers to all activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the relevant bodies of law, which includes human rights law, international humanitarian law, and refugee law. In a solely natural disaster context, the focus is on the human rights of disaster-affected individuals, including their safety, their right to impartial and non-discriminatory access to assistance based on needs, to be informed and heard, and to meaningfully participate in the design and implementation of assistance activities.
Two areas of protection which have specific focus are child protection and gender-based violence:
Child protection refers to efforts directed towards preventing and responding to violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect against children.
Gender-based violence refers to violence that targets individuals or groups on the basis of their gender. This includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, the threat of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty, and includes economic violence. Although GBV can affect anyone, it is predominantly experienced by women and girls.
Gender refers to the social roles and responsibilities of women, men, boys and girls of different ages. It encompasses behaviour that is expected and rewarded; power to make decisions, be heard, and own and control resources; as well as access to employment, education, information and basic services. Gender is socially constructed and learned; it varies over time and from culture to culture. Women and men, boys and girls continue to have the same rights in times of disaster, but for gender reasons their different needs, capacities, vulnerabilities, opportunities, perspectives, and experiences.
Vulnerability in the broader disaster context, as defined in section 32 of the NDMP, is the extent to which a community’s structure, services and environment is likely to be damaged or disrupted by the impact of a hazard. In a protection context, vulnerability refers to the characteristics of a person or group and their situation within a community’s structure, services and environment,that influence their capacity to cope with and recover from impacts. Some people’s underlying vulnerabilities can create disproportionate impacts and protection risks, especially for the young and the elderly, people with disabilities and specific vulnerabilities, and other diversity.
Disability refers to long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments, which in interaction with various attitudinal and environmental barriers hinder a person’s full participation in society on an equal basis.
In addition to the key principles set out in section 17 of the NDMP, including self-help, sustainability and community inclusiveness, the PC is guided by the following principles.
Humanity: committee members work to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it is found, and to protect life and health and ensure respect for human beings.
Impartiality: humanitarian action is based on need alone, giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress and making no distinctions on the basis of nationality, race, gender, religious belief, class, political opinions or other grounds.
Neutrality: humanitarian actors do not take sides in tensions or hostilities or engage in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.
Independence: humanitarian action is autonomous from the political, economic, military or other objectives of any actor in places humanitarian action is implemented.
State sovereignty: states have the primary responsibility to protect all individuals within their jurisdiction in accordance with national and international laws.
Partnership: where appropriate and requested, humanitarian actors assist states to protect the safety, dignity and rights of disaster-affected people. Government and humanitarian actors apply the partnership principles of equality, transparency, complementarity, responsibility and effectiveness through a results-oriented approach, and implement the primary driver of self-help through partnership with local stakeholders.
Respect: committee members respect local systems and processes, culture and customs, and diversities in gender, age, disability, identity, ethnicity and other factors, except insofar as they create harm or perpetuate inequality or discrimination.
Equality: committee members recognise the importance of modelling equality in its own work, including externally with responders and communities, and internally with equal participation of men and women members, and mutual respect for the different and valuable contribution of national and international members.
Do No Harm: humanitarian action should not create harm or increase the risks that disaster-affected people face, nor undermine self-reliance or create dependency.
Accountability to affected populations: disaster-affected people have the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives, to receive information they need to make informed decisions, to provide feedback or make a complaint, and to be free from sexual and other forms of exploitation and abuse.
The purpose of the Protection Committee at the national level is to prevent, reduce and alleviate human suffering resulting from disasters, through the integration of protection in disaster management arrangements.
The geographical scope of the Protection Committee is national, and is complemented by Provincial Protection Committees (PPCs) established pursuant to section 69 of the NDMP, as the primary responders under the respective Provincial Disaster Operations Committees (P-DOCs).
The scope of work includes targeted action for protection, including for displaced populations, and thematic areas such as child protection, gender-based violence, and protection of specific groups such as persons with disabilities; and support for protection mainstreaming by other disaster responders including N-DOC, NEOC, NERT, other N-DOC Committees and other stakeholders covered by the NDMP, which each have a responsibility to ensure protection is systematically integrated throughout preparedness, response and recovery.
The Protection Committee is a standing body, engaged in normal times in preparedness activities, and escalating to response in times of emergency, and later transitioning to response.
The focus of the Protection Committee is on declared disasters as defined in section 32 of the NDMP, and the PC recognises the primary role of the RSIPF in promoting safety and security and that, under the SOI Red Cross Act, the SOI Red Cross takes the lead on humanitarian response to isolated or smaller scale incidents. As part of its preparedness function, the PC has a watching brief on these matters, and may if appropriate undertake advocacy or dissemination of key messages or other actions to pre-emptively reduce the humanitarian consequences of any escalation.
The functions of the Protection Committee are set out in section 103 of the NDMP as follows:
These complement the general functions of disaster management operations, listed in section 89 of the NDMP, which the Protection Committee contributes towards. Accordingly, the functions of the Protection Committee are:
- Raise awareness of the centrality of protection in disaster management and advocate for affected populations to be at the forefront of disaster preparedness, response and recovery, ensuring inclusion and participation of under-represented groups, promoting quality intervention and supporting self-reliance; advocate for women’s inclusion and leadership in preparedness activities, processes and structures;
- Develop capacity of persons and entities covered by the NDMP integrate protection in their efforts during preparedness, response and recovery, including the application of minimum standards for quality response;
- Develop an evidence base to support appropriate implementation of protection through analysis of secondary data, conducting research and preparing reports from needs assessments, lessons learned and other activities;
- Develop appropriate tools, templates, standards, resources and processes for targeted action and mainstreaming; and
- Protection Disaster Plan preparation, to be ready to respond in a disaster.
- Undertake information management functions to identify protection issues through the use of appropriate rapid assessment tools, analysis of data and its use in strategic response planning and resource mobilisation;
- Protection advocacy, including magnifying visibility and voice for people who may be overlooked or excluded in disaster management processes and assistance;
- Support, advocate for and implement actions to improve the inclusion of women as responders and women’s leadership in humanitarian/emergency response;
- Targeted actions in relation to GBV, children, people with disabilities, older people and other vulnerable groups; and
- Implement, monitor, evaluate, and engage in accountability and learning for continuous improvement;
- Advocate for and support with the design and/or implementation of a practical mechanism for community feedback and complaints, including a system for referral and response to complaints, and reporting back to complainants, and ensuring confidentiality and protection of those who use the mechanism; and
- Support mainstreaming of protection by other responders and promote overall rights-based access to basic social services of disaster-affected people.
- Monitoring recovery activities of all responders to ensure that those with the greatest needs and vulnerabilities are given priority, and advocate for those who may be overlooked or excluded;
- Implementation of ongoing response-related activities such as psychosocial support and support to the safety and protection of women, children and other vulnerable people;
- Ensure strong linkages and information flows between the Protection Committee and the relevant Provincial Protection Committees or other provincial-level coordination structures, in the transition from response to recovery;
- Provide protection input to the recovery plan developed under the work of the Recovery Coordination Committee;
- Coordinate and advocate for allocation of financial resources for the implementation of protection-related recovery activities; and
- Implement protection-related recovery activities under the agreed recovery plan.