Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Partners in Action
the Challenge of Natural Disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean:
An IDB Action Plan
In the last 4 years
alone, the Inter-American Development Bank has approved $1.5 billion in
new financing to help affected countries in the region recover from disasters.
This is a ten-fold increase in its average annual disaster-related lending
compared to the previous 15 years. Recent events have more than taught
us that after-the-fact approaches to address disasters are unsustainable
and that prevention and risk management are central to the development
agenda in our region. In the wake of devastating hurricanes, earthquakes,
and floods, there is often a call for better emergency preparedness to
be ready to respond to the next event. However, to break the destruction-reconstruction-destruction
cycle that too many communities suffer, countries and the IDB must put
risk management at the forefront of their development agenda.
This is the message
that the Bank brought to its Annual Meeting of Governors this March in
New Orleans through the Seminar, Confronting Natural Disasters:
A Matter of Development. For a day and a half, representatives from
government ministries and civil society organizations, disaster experts
and risk managers, bilateral and multilateral agencies discussed the challenges
of promoting development in one of the most hazard-prone regions of the
world. IDB president, Enrique Iglesias, stressed the importance of bringing
prevention and integrated risk management to the heart of development
policies and investments. In the presence of three Heads of State and
other dignitaries and experts from the region, he presented the Banks
Plan of Action for mainstreaming risk management in its operations and
actions. The Plan of Action offers a response to government and society
demands for improving their ability to confront and combat natural hazards.
The discussions in
the plenary and workshops of the seminar underscored a number of common
points that will enrich the Banks action plan. Among them are the
following: factors associated with low level of development in the region
environmental degradation, persistent poverty, uncontrolled urban
growth, poor development policies, and weak disaster prevention systems.
All of them increase countries vulnerability and amplify the consequences
of natural hazards. Understanding and addressing the social, environmental,
policy and institutional vulnerability is essential. More attention to
understanding the needs of potential victims of disasters will help design
appropriate incentives for stimulating prevention measures and safety.
Better risk information can stimulate mitigation investment in new areas
and discourage risky behavior. Throughout the region, national systems
for disaster prevention need to be strengthened, with planning and development
agencies assuming a more explicit role in risk reduction. National agencies,
local governments, private sector and civil society can join forces to
establish a common risk reduction strategy.
From the region, there is a clear demand for the Bank to do more. At the presentation of the IDB Plan of Action, Prime Minister Said Musa of Belize argued for a clear national strategy for reducing risk. He underscored that new IDB loans should finance both preparedness investments and institutional strengthening of the disaster management organizations. President Flores of Honduras supported a comprehensive Central American action plan for disaster prevention and mitigation. He also stressed Hondurass intention to capitalize on its experience with Hurricane Mitch in order to include prevention measures in the reconstruction investments. Prime Minister Owen Arthur of Barbados noted that for the small states, disaster prevention is a matter of life and death. The financial burden due to past and potential disasters may be too great to be carried only by the public sector. Therefore, much more work needs to be done with market instruments insurance against disasters, and other financial instruments for hedging risk and to pay for reconstruction.
are all areas the Bank is prepared to help with technical assistance and
investment lending. As part of the Action Plan (summarized in Box X),
the IDB proposes to put risk management at the forefront of the regions
development agenda. The challenges are two-fold: assisting the countries
in adopting comprehensive risk management schemes, and mainstreaming risk
management within the Banks own operations and actions.
Today the governments
of Latin America and the Caribbean are taking important steps toward a
more secure future. In the Hemispheric Meeting of the International Decade
for Natural Disaster Reduction in Costa Rica in June of 1999, the representatives
of the countries in the region made a comprehensive call for the adoption
of policies and investments aimed at reducing vulnerability as an integral
part of development planning. The Inter-American Development Bank emphasizes
the importance of making this call a reality, and pledges to support the
countries of the region to meet the challenge.
Copies of Facing the Challenge of Natural Disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean: An IDB Action Plan are available directly through the IDB Representations in member countries, as well as directly from the Sustainable Development Department of the IDB in Washington (firstname.lastname@example.org; fax 202-623-1786).