Interview with Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) expert Ms Asha Kambon

Ms Asha Kambon was the lead consultant for the ILO led Employment, Livelihoods & Social Protection (ELSP) assessment of the Fiji Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA). She is one of 3 developers of the PDNA methodology in the world. She speaks to ILO about her recent experience in Fiji and provided a technical insight into the methodology and principles.

News | 22 April 2016
Ms. Asha Kambon shares here experiences during her visit to Fiji.

Q:  Please give us a short brief on your professional background.

 I have spent about 20 years working at the United Nations, Economic Commission for Latin America in the Caribbean, and it was during that period that we developed the methodology for the macro-socio economic assessment of disasters. I was privileged to be part of the team who worked in the development of the methodology and also the execution of it in different parts of the world.

Q: When did the PDNA start, what was its duration and which international organizations participated in this PDNA Assessment?

The period under which the PDNA has been conduct is 15 days. The three main partners who supported the government in undertaking the PDNA came from the World Bank, the European Commission and the - United Nations Development Group (UNDG). The UNDGs brings together all the various UN agencies such as the ILO to be partners in supporting government in order to undertaking the PDNA.

The PDNA was supposed to get off the ground on the 29th of March with the collection of data, and a draft document was supposed to be ready around the 19th of April for presentation to the Permanent secretary, and that apparently took place on April 20th. This morning, there will be a second presentation to the Minister with responsibilities on natural disaster and they will then work on the recovery framework.

Q:  This is the first time that ILO and UNDP and World Bank worked together on a PDNA in Fiji. What are your impressions?

I think this was a very good process of bringing together the ILO, the UNDP and the World Bank to work on the PDNA. I think ILO came in as a strong partner because such a significant proportion of the population of Fiji is involved in economic activities. Although, a significant part of the population is involved at the subsistence level.

Q: You conducted a training on the Employment, Livelihoods and Social Protection (ELSP) chapter as part of this assignment with the ILO. How do you think that went and how important the training is in terms of capacity building for this very technical area of work?

I think the training of both the ILO staff and their counterparts, government and civil society was very important in terms of understanding more deeply the employment livelihood and social protection chapter that is part of the PDNA process. It is new and therefore, it is very important that we understand what kind of data they are collecting, why do they collect it, and how we are going to use this data to come up with some answers that will be at service of the government of Fiji in terms of understanding how many people will lose their income and the value of that income.

Q:   How is/was the civil society involved in this PDNA? How did it work for Fiji?

I was very pleased and impressed with the level of the civil society participation from the first time I got here. Some of our early meetings were with the members of the Trade Unions, Women’s cooperative and Women’s Triple, associations of taxi drivers but also persons with disabilities, and I think that this was extremely good and serviced well for the success of the PDNA.

Q:  What are the impressions you had after working on this ELSP chapter?

This was the second opportunity for the ILO to present the ELS protection component as part of the PDNA in the Pacific. First time in Vanuatu. The difference is I think on this occasion we also joined with the UNDP to produce the social component of the assessment and I think that was good, that there is a positive and linking both the issue of livelihood and social protection and employment to the social sector because we were able to strengthen the extra recommendation that came out of it because we were able to analyse the impact on poverty and the impact on the loss of incomes and link those two things very fundamentally. 

Q:  This is the second ELSP chapter in a PDNA in the Pacific: what changes do you notice between the one in Vanuatu, compared to Fiji?

There is definitely a good consultative process going on between the stakeholders. That is not something you find all the time. Very often, we speak about consultation but it doesn’t happen because the people of the civil society are not thoroughly engaged in the process. I think the ILO, the UNDP and other partners in this process were very good at ensuring this constant consultation right at the start of the process. 

Q:  I understand that two other cross cutting/impact sectors were merged into this PDNA. What were they? What were the impact of it? How do you think that merger contributed to the intended outcomes of the PDNA?

The two sectors that came together is poverty (social component of the PDNA) and employment, livelihood and social protection of the PDNA. I think that was a good match and that let us able to arrive to some excellent findings in terms of the outcomes of the PDNA that there is a possibility of more people moving to more -subsistence activities as a result of TC Winston, which is unfortunate. If we take a gender look at that, we would say that unfortunately, because many women have been already involved in this subsistence sector, if more people, meaning more men are forced into this sector, they may squeeze women out and that would certainly not be a good thing because women use the subsistence sector to be able to maintain the livelihoods and the state of their families. So that was one outcome that we were able to find. The second outcome is that there was likely a risk of increasing income inequalities as a result of TC Winston and this was because the fact there was a significant proportion of the population that would be without or with reduced incomes as a result, and they are some people for who the amount of incomes would remain the same, because the salaried workers continue to receive their salaries. But people who are day labourers, who were working in the informal sector, wage earners etc., may lose their incomes. Concretely, what would be the result of that? It is that you would have a widening income inequality in the country and that is never a positive outcome for the country because of the social ills of that. The third finding that we were able to arrive at was that there is maybe an emerging poverty as a result of a loss of income because poverty is measured by income and if people lose their income for either a short period of time, or for a lengthy period of time, it could result in transitional poverty – it would be transitory but still, it is poverty. That means that you may have more demand of the social protection measures that government has in place, and government has excellent social protection measures in place and the government has been scaling those up in order to avoid the population to fall into absolute poverty, but certainly we are expecting as a result of TC Winston that the demands on social protection may increase about 32 per cent.

Q:   We have now come to the end of the PDNA, what will happen next?

Now that the PDNA has been completed, meaning that we have submitted all the information that we could have gathered about the effects of TC Winston, and its impact on the population, on the society and on the economy. Now, the government partners will turn their attention to the recovery framework, what can we do to change things, to be more resilient, to prepare people better for the next time, and how can we help people to secure their livelihoods in the future.

Q:  Is this your first assignment with the ILO for a PDNA? What are your impressions about it?

This has been my first assignment with the ILO and I found it very interesting. Usually, I am looking at the macro socio economic assessments and I am either looking at the micro or advising on the social component of it, and I sort of depend on the ILO to come good with the analysis on loss of income and loss of goods, and on this occasion here I was focusing on that myself. I found it very interesting and I think it tells a different story about the outcome of the event on the population, which is a very important story and I think being involved in it myself, I can see more the significance of it and I think in any other PDNA that I’ll work I will do my best to ensure that the ILO’s work is giving this kind of permanence its deserves in this PDNA process.

Q:  This is your second engagement in the PDNA in Fiji. What changes do you notice between the PDNA after cyclone Evan and the PDNA after cyclone Winston? How has this experience been compared to your previous one?

What is a concern for me when I examine my experience with TC Evan and TC Winston is the movement of human resources. A lot of people who were trained after TC Evan and gained a lot of experience undertaking the PDNA after TC Evan have moved. We can see the positive in that because the government was able to engage and to put in place measures that were recommended. The minute TC Winston occurred, they began to engage in up-skilling the social protection measures and injecting money into the economy based on recommendations that were made after TC Evan, and that is good.

What worries me - as for every small island state - is that so often skilled people are moved about because resources are desperately needed everywhere, and it means that people who have been trained may not be available again for participation in another event. I would support the continuous training of staff and personnel so you do have a rich source of people that can lead the process at the government level, and at the agencies level in case of such an event occurs once again.

Q:  The ILO plans to organize a sub-regional workshop in July with Pacific countries that have already done a PDNA. This workshop will focus on two cross-cutting sectors. In your opinion and experience, what issues would you think these cross cutting sectors should focus on?

I think it is a great idea to bring together countries that experienced the PDNA and help them focus on what are the cross-cutting issues that should be strengthen.  Indeed, very often, people are unable to grapple with the cross-cutting issues. I think of course the issue of employment, livelihoods and social protection is an important issue, and the other one would be gender because half of the population is composed by women, and in some islands, more than a half the population are women. They clearly play a critical role in family nutrition, family health and well-being, and many of them in agriculture so I would recommend that these areas get a good coverage. The third one would be environment, and that would be a necessity because small island states depend on the environment for their existence and subsistence, so we do need to understand how to estimate the extent of the damage and the extent of the loss in the environmental sector, especially since eco-tourism has become a part of the gross domestic product.