International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
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Prevention Pays


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CEPREDENAC Celebrates Its Tenth Birthday
6-8 October 1998
International Symposium
"Disaster Mitigation: A Contribution to Sustainable Development in Central America"


The Central American Coordination Centre for Natural Disaster Prevention was launched more than 10 years ago as a network of technical, scientific and operational institutions focused on disaster management. Sweden provided the initial funding; later on, the other Scandinavian countries joined as donors. By 1994, CEPREDENAC had become a regional institution, part of the Central American Integration System (SIECA), with funding from several sources.

To celebrate its tenth birthday, a Symposium was held in Panama, where CEPREDENAC is currently based. Participants agreed that sustainable development efforts must be strengthened so that globalization can provide an opportunity for the integration of the Central American region not only economically, but also in key areas such as disaster reduction. They stated that local, regional and national institutions must be sensitized concerning vulnerability reduction, both in the private and public sectors, and should include in their everyday agendas the issue of risk prevention and management.

Symposium participants also argued that international aid, particularly financial aid, should be channeled towards the creation of disaster prevention funds. They insisted that the issue of disaster reduction should be included in all accounting and economic analyses, because the cost of prevention is much smaller than the cost of reconstruction and rehabilitation. Strengthening local prevention and response committees and organizations was also considered fundamental, and international information and decision-making support networks were encouraged as a way to help local governments and communities to exchange experiences and success stories.

Participants agreed that a gender perspective must inform all prevention efforts, and new laws should be drafted, or older ones enforced, to carry out preventive and planning activities, including stricter land-use and zoning efforts. A careful evaluation of emergency response and prevention bodies was recommended, particularly in the light of international agreements that have been ratified by countries but not always implemented fully.

The following are some of the working groups’ final recommendations:

  • Propose concrete measures and specific resolutions in all of the fields mentioned above, so that they can be included in the Plan of Action that will emerge from the upcoming 20th Central American Presidential Summit, planned for the first half of 1999. While specific legislation and institutional arrangements are desirable, what is truly needed is a comprehensive strategy for sustainable development and vulnerability reduction in every aspect of governmental and non-governmental action.

  • Act at the national level, within a regional framework, to lobby for the inclusion of disaster reduction in the agenda of the above-mentioned Presidential Summit.

  • Develop procedures and methodologies to facilitate the institutionalization of disaster reduction activities at the local level, reinforced by international aid and other activities promoted within the IDNDR framework.

  • Strengthen CEPREDENAC’s institutional role in disaster prevention and mitigation, and its leadership role within ALIDES and other sectoral Central American initiatives.

For more information, please contact: Rolando Durán
Apdo. 3133 Balboa-Ancón, Panamá
Tel: (507) 232-7627, Fax (507) 232-7641
Web site: