International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001

Partners in Action


Seminar On A Strategy For Community Disaster Reduction And Risk Management In Human Settlements In Central America

The Central American Coordination Center for Disaster Prevention (CEPREDENAC) and the Central American Community Network for Risk Reduction organized a seminar-workshop on A Strategy For Community Disaster Reduction And Risk Management In Human Settlements In Central America.

The seminar was held between 13 and 15 November 2000 in Costa Rica’s old capital, Cartago. It was part of the activities of the Strategic Framework for Vulnerability and Disaster reduction in Central America and the Central American Five-Year Plan for Vulnerability and Disaster Impact Reduction, both agreed upon during the 10th Summit of Central American Presidents in October 1999.

The chief goal of the seminar was to develop inputs and consensus on the design of a Regional Strategy for Risk Management in the Housing and Human Settlements Sector in Central America, which will be incorporated into the Regional Disaster Reduction Plan that is coordinated by CEPREDENAC as the specialized agency of the Central American Integration System (SICA).

As a starting point for the discussions, participants reviewed a series of previous commitments by governments in the region, such as the 2nd Habitat Agenda that was adopted at the Habitat II World Conference held in Istanbul in 1996, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966/76) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966/76), which recognize housing as a human right. Any person, regardless of sex, religion, age, race, political beliefs or any other condition, has the right to adequate housing, particularly women, children, the old, the disabled, and all other vulnerable groups.

Given that little attention has been paid to the implementation of these international agreements and plans of action in Central America, the review chose to focus on the following lines of action:

  • Human beings at the center of all actions. This is in agreement with the definition of sustainable development adopted by the Alliance for Sustainable Development: “…A process of progressive change in the quality of life of human beings that place them at the center as the primary subjects of development through economic growth with social equity.”
  • Citizen participation and decentralization, as practices that must go hand in hand with risk management.
  • The definition of spaces, priorities, and ambits for action. This requires a careful study of risk factors, the settlements most vulnerable to natural or manmade hazards, and the relationship between the structural housing deficit and risk.
  • Land use management. The basis for any plan of action for preventing risk in human settlements and for any program of sustainable development, land use management must be understood as the spatial projection of the social, economic and environmental goals and development policies.
  • The fight against poverty. While over half of the population continue to live in conditions of poverty, it will be highly difficult to reduce risk without implementing national policies and actions for improving the living conditions and reducing the vulnerability factors that beset the poor.
  • The location, design, and building of new human settlements. There is a need to establish strict and coherent standards for land use, urban development, and the design and structure of housing, taking into account likely hazards and attempting to mitigate vulnerability.
  • Reduction of the qualitative housing deficit. Measures must be implemented in the short, medium, and long term to reduce the number of badly built or deteriorated housing units that pose a threat to their inhabitants in the event of a natural disaster.
  • Improvement or relocation of human settlements most at risk and secure title to the land. Legal actions must be launched in the medium and short term to procure land titles for informal settlers and squatters and to resettle those who live in especially vulnerable areas.
  • Building codes and standards: Improving the installed building capacity. Building codes must be improved, as well as improving the formal installed capacity in the field of construction.
  • Promoting a culture of prevention: Training and Education. It is essential to build capacity and provide the technical, theoretical, and practical skills needed to transform our vulnerable societies into self-managing communities.
  • The exchange of experiences. When problems are similar in different countries or across professional disciplines, the exchange of experiences and ideas encourages horizontal cooperation across the region and facilitates the implementation of appropriate solutions.

The meeting concluded with the signing of the Tres Ríos Declaration, which in addition to the points above stresses the need for real, effective community participation in the development of a strategy for disaster reduction in human settlements in Central America, including its application and the management of allocated resources, and mechanisms to ensure that community input can influence local, national and regional policies for decision making in risk management.

Representatives of the Community Network from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama took part in the meeting, as did government officials, and members of international agencies, the United Nations, CEPREDENAC and SICA.

For more information please contact:
Red Comunitaria
Technical Secretariat
Nicaragua: Porfirio Gámez
Fax (505) 265-1244

Costa Rica: Enrique Tula
Fax (506) 283-5665 a

El Salvador: Samaria Cavaría
Fax (503) 284-4673 f

David Novelo
Fax (507) 316-0067