Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter for Latin America and the Caribbean Inssue No. 15, 1999
Formal education in risk management
Disasters are the
result of natural and social processes. Education and its effect on the
behaviour of the various social actors can be a crucial factor in the
degree of vulnerability and the likelihood of disasters taking place,
just as it can play a key role in building response and recovery capacity.
Prevailing cultural patterns are still far from providing a solid foundation
for establishing a healthy balance between the natural environment and
society. Only fundamental changes, profound educational reforms, can promote
a true culture of disaster prevention.
In San José, Costa Rica, during the Hemispheric Meeting of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, on 3 June 1999, the OAS Unit for Sustainable Development and Environment (USDE) held a technical meeting to discuss the development of the Hemispheric Plan of Action for Disaster Reduction in the Education Sector.
Participants discussed the implementation of the Plan, including the creation of a Technical Secretariat. In response, the National University of Trujillo, Peru, offered to act as the Technical Secretariat for the General Coordination of the Hemispheric Plan, and proposed that the Operational Secretariat be housed in its Research Institute on Disasters and the Environment. This was agreed to, and the programme was officially launched on 3 August 1999.
The IDNDR Secretariat is supporting follow-up activities to the Plan in its academic aspects, while OAS-USDE is focusing on the physical vulnerability of education facilities.
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The postgraduate degree in Prevention, Planning and Integrated Management of Disaster-Prone Areas, offered by the Centre for Territorial Strategies for Mercosur (CETEM) of the Department of Geography and the Postgraduate Studies Programme of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the National University of Cuyo, Argentina, is a systematic attempt to train scientists, academics, professionals and technicians in disaster vulnerability reduction. The programme, supported by provincial, national and international organizations including OAS-USDE, PAHO/WHO, UN-IDNDR and COFES, is intended to help minimize natural, environmental and human risk and promote the long-term sustainable development of the hemisphere.
In 1998, 17 specialists from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica earned their postgraduate degrees. Some have already played a key role in their communities, promoting municipal decrees and by-laws on land-use management, and influencing the health and education systems, not only in Mendoza but also during the Colombian earthquake and after hurricane Mitch in Costa Rica. Currently, efforts are underway to establish a Documentation Centre for Southern Cone nations in South America. Research projects are underway, as is the establishment of a university network for vulnerability reduction in Mercosur member states.
Starting in April 2000, the academic programme will enter its second year. Four courses of one month each make up the curriculum. Although students are not required to attend every single lesson, training is intensive, involving both theoretical classes and practical workshops, and students are evaluated on a continuing basis.
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A new culture of disaster
prevention will have to be created in the home, in school, in the workplace
and in society in general.
These concepts were included in Costa Ricas National Education Plan for Risk and Disaster Reduction, designed with the participation of several institutions and international agencies involved in disaster reduction. The goal was to provide inputs to teachers and students that explain scientifically and objectively the origin and consequences of various natural and man-made phenomena. The Plan, which replaces the Emergency Education Programme established by the Ministry of Education in 1987, is a multidisciplinary and inter-institutional effort to promote risk management, and is based on the Hemispheric Plan of Action for Disaster Reduction in the Education Sector and the Institutional Strategic Annex on Risk and Disaster Education and Vulnerability Reduction, which the deputy ministers of Education of Central America signed in Guatemala City in 1996. Educational authorities renewed their commitment to the plan in San José, Costa Rica, in November 1997.
The curriculum will contain a clear picture of reality as something that can be transformed in order to reduce risk and natural disasters. Conceptual and scientific components will be integrated with research by students and teachers and involvement at the family and community levels, so that civil society can play a role in the process.
The Ministry and the National Emergency Commission will cooperate continuously in the implementation of the plan, with the invaluable support of national and international institutions working in the field of education for disaster prevention.
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The University Institute of Technology of Ejido (IUTE) is a higher learning institution created in November 1981. Its mission is to train university-level technicians in priority development areas through education, research and university outreach programmes.
The project aims to train Technicians in Emergency and Disaster Management in areas such as Industrial Emergencies, Disaster Response, and Citizen Self-protection, based on international educational standards.
A total of 41 courses, worth 108 credits, are organized into 18-week semesters, for a total of six semesters (three years).
In order to be eligible, students must have completed secondary school (high school) with emphasis on the sciences (chemistry, physics and mathematics), be 35 years old or older, not suffer from any physical handicaps, and preferably have some experience in emergency or disaster management.
Interested parties should send a letter explaining their reasons for wanting to complete the degree, as well as a photocopy of their grades and information about their experiences in disaster reduction. These documents should be sent care of Prof. Alejandro Linayo, CESED Coordinating Unit, at any of the addressed listed below.
Those who wish to start during the second semester (July 2000) should bear in mind that the deadline for receiving the above documents is 1 May 2000.
A small number of scholarships for Latin American students is available.
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