Disaster Reduction in Development
after the IDNDR
Stephen O. Bender1
Unit for Sustainable Development and Environment
Organization of American States
There are three principal development
themes adopted by the countries of the hemisphere following the end of the Cold War:
1. Environment and Sustainable Development
Each of these plays a part in the declarations,
resolutions, plans of action, and programs at from the hemispheric and regional summits,
conferences and meetings and from national development plans. They are today and for the
foreseeable future the guideposts for shaping development actions.
On the disaster reduction front there are several
groups which can be described in the following way:
Those who adhere to the window of opportunity
following a disaster theory: During the 1997-1999 period approxi-mately half the countries
of the hemisphere have suffered disasters necessitating international assistance.
Those who see the window of opportunity to reduce
disaster impact before an event provokes the need for an international response.
Those who see little or no direct relationship
between disaster vulnerability and development problems.
Four groups of actions with a focus on financial
matters (while not always looking at economic and physical risk) are beginning to take
place in the development area:
1. Debt forgiveness
2. Debt payment restructuring
3. Loan project reprogramming
4. New loan projects
The three principal questions as to
mainstreaming disaster reduction in development and refer back to the three principal
themes of development in the hemisphere.
The three questions for consideration are:
To what extent must the structure and content of
disaster management, particularly at the international and national levels, be remolded as
an integral part of development activities?
What are the limitations of cost/benefit analysis
in justifying investments in vulnerability reduction and, in their absence, what
justification will be used to such investments attending to the needs of the poor?
What legacy of action will the IDNDR leave with
international and regional organizations, institutions, corporations, and national and
local governments and businesses, building on the already thousands of contributions to
To the first question on remolding disaster
management into development addresses the issue of environment and sustainable development
because this theme of development points towards an integrated approach, towards
multisectoral action and towards intergenerational responsibilities. It is critical that:
Use of terms of transformation after a disaster
become a reality where vulnerability reduction of economic and social infrastructure
become part of the development agenda, and
In countries not presently recovering from a major
disaster, implementation of the Plan of Action of the Sustainable Development Summit
calling for the incorporation of disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness becomes
part of national development plans.
To do so:
Reconstruction activities must be carried out in
the context of development decisions, not replacement projects
International and regional organizations and
forums must assist and support national governments in exploring, discussing and adopting
new disaster management structures which operate inside development activities and that
those responsible for development projects are held accountable for risk and loss.
As to the second question of economic justification
of investment in lower risk and protecting the poor, this question address directly the
issue of trade. Free market capitalism and export-oriented economies are to provide the
investments, jobs, earnings and revenues to meet development needs. Given that financial
issues can take precedent over economic and physical environment issues, it is critical
We recognize that as we learn more about who is
vulnerable and why, we will have to also learn how to use this information in a highly
charged political, institutional and technical atmosphere,
We resist further movement to make "disaster
management" a sector, but work towards full integration of disaster reduction in all
We associate the poors vulnerability to
natural hazards with their other types of vulnerability so as to refocus where necessary
development actions, and
We strengthen efforts to identify vulnerability
reduction to natural hazards as part of environmental management even as new challenges
are emerging from economic sectors to compartmentalize environmental concerns and manage
them as a sector apart from economic production interests.
To do so, we must:
Deal with financial, economic and physical risk in
a concurrent fashion,
Create new tools for vulnerability and risk
assessment in the context of development projects, and
Clearly define for investment projects the
anticipated financial, economic and physical risk levels due to natural hazards.
As to the third question of a legacy as we go
forward, we must first and foremost recognize that an integrated, multisectoral approach
to mainstreaming disaster reduction in development must take place in the context of
national development plans as called for in the Sustainable Development Summit of Bolivia.
These decisions must be carried out in democratic contexts with full societal
participation for the definition of needs and the assignment of resources. Thus the
sectors must take the lead forming the development agenda for the future, an agenda that
includes vulnerability reduction of populations and their economic and social
Place vulnerability reduction on the agenda at the
ministerial level during the next year, proposing regional and national actions through
plans and programs to integrate vulnerability reduction into the heart of sector
Prepare and adopt vulnerability reduction plans as
part of sector development plans.
- Report annually at the national, regional and hemispheric levels on
disaster impact, vulnerability and mitigation efforts through sectoral and multilateral