National Disaster Management Authorities


What are the models of National Disaster Management Authorities (NDMAs) in the South Asia region? How are they institutionally configured and what are their roles and responsibilities? What are the learnings on the institutional establishment of a NDMA?


This review has found, as did a Brookings literature review by Ferris (2014: 6), that there are few published comparative analyses of NDMAs, either on South Asia or worldwide. This review focuses on three cases from South Asia: Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, while it also includes brief information on Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

The key findings on the DRM institutional structures for the three main cases are:

  • Bangladesh: The National Disaster Management Council, led by the Prime Minister, formulates disaster management policies, and the Inter-Ministerial Disaster Management Coordination Committee implements policies and decisions. From 2012 the Department of Disaster Management, housed in the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, has been the central unit responsible for overseeing implementation of the National Disaster Management Act 2012.
  • India: The NDMA (mandated in 2005) is housed in the Ministry of Home Affairs, with the Home Secretary chairing its National Executive Committee (NEC). It is responsible for developing, enforcing and implementing policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management, as well as supporting India’s state authorities when a disaster overwhelms a state’s response capacity. The Prime Minister is the NDMA’s chairperson.
  • Pakistan: The NDMA (established in 2007) acts as the national coordinating agency for disaster risk management. The NDMA is the executive arm of the National Disaster Management Commission, the highest policy making body in the field of disaster management, chaired by the Prime Minister. The NDMA chairperson is appointed by the Prime Minister.

Key lessons learned on the institutional establishment of NDMAs – from the South Asia cases and more widely – include:

  • Disasters can offer a window of opportunity to promote institutional or legislative change – through leveraging political will, international support and public opinion – and to learn from how existing arrangements have or have not been able to respond adequately.
  • The design of a NDMA and its institutionalisation requires a specific, flexible, political process: each country requires a solution to match its particular risks, capacities and characteristics; flexibility to adapt to changing priorities and emerging opportunities; and commitment of political stakeholders.
  • A well-defined legal structure is needed: co-existing old and new institutional structures leads to confusion, gaps and duplications.
  • A NDMA needs to have the authority and legitimacy to coordinate all the bodies involved in disaster management: this is particularly affected by its location within government and its access to adequate capacity and resources.
  • A NDMA’s institutional structure should support: decentralised disaster management; interagency and inter-sectoral cooperation; linkages with NGOs; and relationships with international donors.
  • There is an opportunity for NDMAs to improve and institutionalise systematic learning and capacity building support.


Suggested citation

Carter, B. & Pozarny, P. (2016). National Disaster Management Authorities (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1359). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.