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
Legislation for disaster prevention
On 13 October 1999, the new National Emergency Law went into effect in Costa Rica. Its most innovative feature is its emphasis on prevention. The law seeks to provide an effective and efficient juridical framework for regulating State activity in emergency situations and promoting disaster prevention throughout the country.
The law creates the National Risk Prevention and Emergency Response Commission, formerly the National Emergency Commission and still employing the acronym CNE, as part of the Presidents Office, but with its own legal identity and budget.
The Commission will be empowered to reject forestry and mining concessions and the exploitation of rivers and other natural resources if it has reason to believe that such activities can increase the risk of natural disasters or are to be carried out in high-risk areas. Its decisions will be binding.
Similarly, the Commission will oversee, and reject when necessary, any building project, extension or modification, including human settlements, either partially or totally, in previously identified high-risk areas. Information about these high-risk areas will be forwarded to local governments, the Association of Engineers and Architects of Costa Rica, and other relevant institutions.
According to the new law, the Commissions Regulatory Plan will override any other legislative or government decision, and violating it will be punished by law.
The law also outlines the duties and functions of all organizations, public and private entities and community groups involved in disaster prevention. Article 6 of the law recognizes three phases to any disaster: the initial or critical phase, which will emphasize timely communication with the affected population; the intermediate or medium-term phase, in which the focus will be on rehabilitation; and the final or long-term phase, which will highlight reconstruction and any measures needed to prevent the recurrence of similar emergencies.
The CNE must also
organize a National Prevention System to reduce the risk of natural disasters,
and a National Emergency Fund to provide the necessary funding for disaster
prevention, mitigation and response.
On 11 October 1999, the Defense and Governance Committee and the Central American Integration Committee of the Nicaraguan National Assembly presented to the Speaker of the Assembly their favourable verdict concerning a bill that would create the National Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Response System.
The objective of the proposed law would be establish the principles, standards and instruments required to set up an inter-institutional system for disaster reduction through prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response activities aimed at both natural and man-made disasters.
The National Disaster Prevention and Response System would be headed by a National Civil Defense Committee. A Permanent Technical Group will be the executive arm of the National Committee. The bill calls for the creation of provincial and regional structures, including one for the Atlantic coast. It would also create a Disaster Operations Centre, as part of Civil Defense, and a Disaster Fund that would be available to the National Committee if an emergency is officially declared.
Relevant government institutions, including decentralized institutions and municipal governments, would be a part of the System, and must formally identify which department will be in charge of coordinating risk reduction and disaster response activities within their sphere of influence.