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



Spanish Civil Protection and the Success of a Virtual Encounter
Gloria Bratschi, Specialist in Prevention, Planning, and Integrated Management of Disaster-Prone Areas
Mendoza, Argentina

Spain’s General Civil Protection Directorate and the European Center for Social Research on Emergency Situations organized a virtual conference on the Theory and Practice of the Social Sciences in Situations of Risk, Crisis, and Catastrophe.

The Internet-based conference was held during October, November and the first half of December 2000. The following is the account of one of the participants. It was written while the conference was still underway.

Thanks to periodic reports I receive from ISDR, I was able to join the Conference. It has been more than interesting. Best of all was not having to take airplanes and all that, not having to lug around suitcases, books, presents, then finding out you forgot something, etcetera. The only thing that makes you say, “What a shame!” is not being able to talk face to face with the other participants. On the other hand, as in any other virtual relationship, I can focus more easily on the contents of the message, rather than on the messenger. I have been able to store each of the lectures, as well as the messages on the discussion lists. Naturally, my inbox is now saturated. But I’m happy, because I’m learning a lot, because I have linked up with other cultures, other languages.

So far I’ve been able to perceive that the mass media issue generated a lot of reaction, which allows me to infer that things are not going too well in that area. More precisely, disaster prevention institutions and the media have not yet come to coherent arrangements to interact effectively and efficiently in disaster prevention and response. In other words, agreeing on how to handle risk management issues instead of interfering with each other’s work. Almost all participants have talked about respect for privacy while dealing with the right to freedom of expression. Sometimes reporters, when covering a disaster, do not adopt the most ethical attitude, and show that which is superfluous, which is not news any more. And that leads to another thread in the discussion: What is news? I always say it is best to look at how newsworthy events are in essence and then make selections, look at people’s information needs and their right to know, together with the right of institutions to manage their own information.

Well, the Conference is already a success, and it has not yet finished. There was a fascinating discussion about how to conceptualize risk. It went from the most dense philosophical speculation to the simplest, most everyday examples. And there were the participants, eager, with a great desire for linking up with the others, saying what was pertinent and necessary based on their own culture and perceptions.

I have collected a lot of information. I have increased my knowledge and, as always, when “attending” an ecumenical meeting such as this one, I have been enriched by the conviction that there is still a lot we must do for disaster prevention and risk management.

What has thrilled me, as well, has been to verify that on this planet, in spite of certain apocalyptic pronouncements, there are still beautiful people who are full of solidarity, altruism, and a vocation for service. I think this Conference has been a true homage to life.

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