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NOTES ON THE HISTORY OF THE DISASTER MANAGEMENT INSTITUTE OF SOUTHERN AFRICA (DMISA)

The Disaster Management Institute of Southern Africa (DMISA) aims to advance the discipline and create learning and networking opportunities. DMISA, which is 25 years old in 2010, has engaged with the South African National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) on various occasions. Regular meetings between DMISA leadership and the NDMC ensures a constant flow of information from functionaries in all spheres of government, directly to the NDMC � cutting red tape and improving cooperation and understanding. DMISA is a self-governing body committed to standardization, and hosts the biggest annual Disaster Risk Management conference in Africa � routinely attracting more than 350 delegates.

In partnership with the NDMC, DMISA plays an important role in furthering the interests of DRM practitioners in South Africa and in the Southern Africa region as a whole. DMISA has kept pace with global changes since its inception, and has undergone several name changes and considerable constitutional reforms in recent years. Founded in April 1985 as the Civil Defence Association of South Africa, it has contributed significantly to South Africa�s legislative reform in DRM.

When the institute was established, civil defence services were rendered according to the provisions of the Civil Defence Act (Act 67 of 1977) and the Fund Raising Act of 1978. However, it became increasingly apparent that civil defence and protection had to change to keep abreast with international approaches to disasters and how they were managed. The International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), introduced by the United Nations (UN) during the 1990s, was a clear call for the world to shift the focus away from reactive disaster responses onto disaster prevention and preparedness and building resilience through developmental initiatives. The changes within the Institute reflected the changes in thinking and approach among practitioners in the field, as well as a move away from military influence towards a reaffirmation of the principles of civilian control and democracy.

DMISA organised a study tour to Europe and the United Kingdom in 1990, which contributed significantly to a paradigm shift from civil defence and protection to disaster management in South Africa. Coming at the end of the apartheid era, the tour was accepted by the UN in Geneva. As a result, the UN Disaster Management Training Programme (UNDP), developed by the UN Disaster Relief Organization (UNDRO), was introduced to South Africa, leading in 1996 to a partnership with Technikon SA to offer Certificate Courses in Disaster Management based on the UNDP modules. The courses were jointly accredited and certified by Cranfield University in the UK; the University of Wisconsin in the USA; and the then Civil Protection Association.

The changing face of DMISA

Date Development
26 April 1985 Founded as the Civil Defence Association of South Africa
1994 Name change to: Civil Protection Association of South Africa
1996 Name change to: Emergency and Disaster Management Association of Southern Africa
1998 Name change to: Disaster Management Association of Southern Africa
2000 Name change to: Disaster Management Institute of Southern Africa (DMISA)
2005 Decision to investigate transformation to a statutory professional body where disaster management professionals are required to register

Source: Reid, 2006
The introduction of additional membership categories linked to qualifications and experience heralded the start of another transformation process for DMISA, which is currently gaining momentum with efforts toward achieving professional status for the function.

–   Peter Mokoto, Pat Reid and Johan Minnie, August 2006

Interesting pictures from the past: DMISA Councils, 1996 to 2010.

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