Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Partners in Action
American Community Network for Risk Management
Communities are the beginning and the end of all activities aimed at promoting integrated development; therefore, they must participate in the planning, intervention, and decision-making involving all policies and strategies directed towards that end. Is this leading role really being respected?
In risk management, as in any other intervention in which communities are involved, many of the policies aimed at their development have been designed at the desks of well-intentioned but not always well-informed people, often hundreds of kilometers away. For this reason, these policies have not taken hold in the communities in question, since they did not spring from the needs and intentions of the communities themselves; they were, so to speak, transplanted.
As an initiative involving true participation and integration, the Central American Community Network for Risk Management was established in 1999, its objective to contribute to improving the quality of life and the sustainable development and self-management of communities in the region. At present, the Community Network is comprised of about 8,000 communities throughout Central America, and the goal is to incorporate an ever-increasing number of vulnerable communities.
The Community Network does not have a superstructure, with its own funds and extravagant headquarters. Every member community is expected to work not just actively but also independently and autonomously. That is the reason the Community Network is considered a movement, not a dubiously representative top-down organization.
One of the chief goals of the Community Network is to show institutions currently working in disaster prevention that only by working together will it be possible to reduce the hazards faced by a majority of people in the Central American isthmus. As such, the Community Network has chosen to play the following roles as:
At present, the German GTZ agency is financing the CARECOR project. The acronym, in Spanish, stands for Training the Central American Community Network for Risk Management. Its objective is to build communities capacity to manage risks related to natural disasters.
The project, currently in its pilot phase, is being implemented in El Salvador and Guatemala, later to spread to the remaining countries. In Guatemala, the member communities also belong to the CPR, an association of indigenous communities that are threatened by desertification, forest fires, and agricultural pests. In El Salvador, participating communities in the Zacatecoluca Local Peace Zone are vulnerable to floods caused by erosion and deforestation.
One of the key components of the project is training, which in this case is understood not simply as the transmission of facts but as an educational experience that can change peoples view of the world and their relationship to it. Risk management theory is but the foundation on which to build mental structures for the design, organization, execution, and management of projects aimed at transforming the conditions of risk of the communities implementing them.
The hope is that this and other initiatives can strengthen the resilence of communites and achieve a grassroots approach to risk management that can prevent the pain felt by millions in the region when hurricane Mitch or El Niño showed just how vulnerable their communities could be.