Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
In the Spotlight
A Pan-American Strategy for Reducing the
Chávez Machado, M.Sc.
Reducing the vulnerability to natural disasters of the education sector in the Americas began to be undertaken at the hemispheric level with the organization of two regional conferences in the early 1990s. The Environment and Sustainable Development Unit of the Organization of American States (ESDU/OAS) organized the meetings with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). One was held in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1992, for the countries of Latin America; the other, for the Caribbean, was held in Trinidad and Tobago in 1993.
Also in 1993, the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), with the support of Mexicos Civil Protection Agency and the National Center for Disaster Prevention, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the OAS, organized a workshop in Tlaxcala, Mexico, to design a promotion strategy and campaign for disaster reduction in hospitals and schools, since the slogan that year for World Disaster Reduction Day was Disaster prevention in schools and hospitalsits also your business!
Later, the ESDU/OAS, PAHO/WHO, IDNDR and the Department of Humanitarian Affairs, with the support of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), convened the first hemispheric conference on school vulnerability reduction. The meeting, held in Caracas in 1997, laid the foundations for a Hemispheric Action Plan for Reducing the Vulnerability of the Education Sector to Natural Disasters (HemisphericEDUPLAN), which was followed up on the following year by means of a virtual conference.
HemisphericEDUPLAN can be defined as a strategy for reducing the vulnerability to disasters of the education sector in the Americas. It is based on the assumption that it is society as a whole that is responsible for preventing and reducing the effects of natural phenomena that may have a direct and indirect impact on the continuity and quality of education.
It is important to bear in mind that HemisphericEDUPLAN is made possible by the collective effort of institutions, non-governmental organizations, associations and individuals involved with the education sector in member states, who participate voluntarily. Their mission is to ensure that HemisphericEDUPLAN, or the principles that sustain it, be adopted officially by the countries of the Americas. The plan therefore identifies and promotes national, regional and hemispheric mechanisms that can bring this about.
HemisphericEDUPLAN was developed with the central objective of strengthening the creation and implementation of programs for reducing the vulnerability of the education sector to social and natural disasters. Specific objectives include the following:
In order to achieve its objectives, HemisphericEDUPLANs work is divided into three main areas:
These areas outline the general strategy of the program, since the specific actions contemplated by HemisphericEDUPLAN are derived from them. These areas also make it possible to identify what role must be played by the various stakeholders.
Technical Secretariats have been set up as execution mechanisms for carrying out the necessary activities. A Technical Secretariat is an organism entrusted with coordinating the efforts of the various stakeholders for planning, execution, and evaluation. As the name implies, its main function is to support and facilitate the processes required to achieve the Plans objectives.
The following types of Technical Secretariats have been established:
Texas Womans University
Historically, the education sector has been marginalized in disaster reduction efforts. Yet educational institutions represent an important part of communities and their interaction with natural hazards, emergency preparedness and disaster relief. Traditionally, schools have been used in a post-disaster effort such as locations for shelters, response and recovery coordination centers, and information dissemination points.
The EDUPLANhemisférico offers a three-pronged focus for mitigation activities, centered on physical infrastructure, citizen participation and academic aspects (www.oas.org/nhp/).
EDUPLANhemisférico is implemented through local, national and regional activities supported by Technical Secretariats, partnering a wide variety of agencies, organizations and educators in collaborative efforts to reduce vulnerability. The participation of the Technical Secretariats is voluntary. Technical Secretariats use EDUPLANhemisférico as a guide for engaging and committing all components of the education sectorpublic and private, as well as at all educational levels from faculty through administrative and operational ranks, in efforts that reduce vulnerabilities, an objective of the sectors development.
Technical Secretariats operate at the community-level, such as a single school, an educational level, an administrative level, or a geographic level. They operate within an institution or across cultures and nations in collaborative partnerships. Their actions start locally but offer national, regional and hemispheric impact. They work to develop programs, encourage citizen participation in making schools safer, and link with experts focusing on the physical infrastructure. To insure their success, technical and financial support from OAS, ISDR, and others enables actions by hosting hemispheric and regional policy and strategic action forums, and creating a dialogue with development finance and cooperation institutions.
The idea for a Technical Secretariat is one based on a regional or technical theme and/or special event coordination. It is not self-appointed representation, but is institutionally or organizationally based. The EDUPLANhemisférico framework allows Technical Secretariats to be responsive to local, regional and national needs, and it gives the Technical Secretariat individual autonomy while working within a hemispheric network.
The education sector
is buying in to the EDUPLANhemisférico and a network
of collaborators is spreading across the Americas and the Caribbean. Hopefully,
a group of institutions, each a Technical Secretariat, will combine their
experiences, talents, and resources to prepare special events, promote
one or more of the EDUPLANhemisférico thematic areas, and create
and/or strengthen networks in their geographical areas.
The role of the Technical
Secretariats is one of leadership by example, such as supporting others
by organizing and sharing resources, presenting and coordinating a coherent,
action-oriented and successful approach to disaster reduction, linking
persons and agencies in collaborative efforts, securing funds for mitigation
strategies, and developing educational and training programs from the
elementary through post-graduate levels.
The role of Technical Secretariats is open to all interested institutions in the public and private sectors committed to disaster reduction of the educational sector. Of particular importance is the participation of networks of community-based NGOs, professional associations, technical associations, and development assistance institutions.