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

Global ISDR


2002 United Nations World Disaster Reduction Campaign - Disaster Reduction for Sustainable Mountain Development

Every year since the early 1990s, the United Nations organizes a World Disaster Reduction Campaign that culminates on International Disaster Reduction Day, the second Wednesday of October—which falls this year on 9 October.

The main purpose of each World Disaster Reduction Campaign is to increase public awareness, worldwide and across all professional sectors, about the measures that can be taken to reduce the vulnerability of societies to the socio-economic impact of natural hazards. The campaigns are based on a different theme every year. This year, the theme is Disaster Reduction for Sustainable Mountain Development.

Two essential aims lie behind this year’s Campaign. The first is to increase global awareness of successful disaster reduction efforts in mountain areas, so that vulnerable mountain populations can benefit from the lessons learned elsewhere. The second aim is to raise awareness of the importance of disaster reduction in general, so that past and new solutions in vulnerability and risk reduction can be explained and shared.

The World Disaster Reduction Campaigns are organized by the Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), located in Geneva, Switzerland.

Mountains - A Natural Stage for Natural Disasters

Whether we live at sea-level or higher up, we remain linked to mountains and they influence our lives far beyond what we can imagine. Mountains are the largest source of freshwater on our planet, their biodiversity is extraordinarily rich, and one out of every 10 people lives on them. However, war, poverty, climate change and environmental degradation threaten the world’s mountain ranges—and therefore its beneficiaries, us.

Mountains are high-energy environments. This confronts us with many challenges when attempting to minimize the natural hazards that result from high rain and snowfall, variations in temperature, steep slopes, volcanic activity, and earthquakes.

Some processes are very rapid and cannot be prevented, only mitigated—lava and ash flows, rockslides, rock falls, debris flows. However, human activities also contribute to the fragility of mountains. Unsustainable logging and inappropriate farming practices, for instance, can lead to deforestation and a loss of vegetable cover, leading to erosion. As more topsoil and sediments flow downstream, the likelihood of avalanches, landslides and floods increases. Although gradual, soil erosion puts the lives and livelihoods of mountain people at risk.

Mountain people have extensive experience in natural hazards and are aware of their location and likelihood. But such knowledge is not always used or recognised, especially in the case of slow-onset natural hazards. Also, catastrophic events such as glacial lake outbursts and debris avalanches related to volcanic eruptions may have long return periods or may have multiple causes. They are therefore difficult to predict.

Mountain areas are therefore a good platform to illustrate what has been done and what still needs to be done to reduce the socio-economic impact of natural hazards on populations at risk.

For communities worldwide to avoid the sometimes fatal set backs natural disasters can create, disaster reduction needs to be an essential consideration in sustainable development planning, a need which is particularly acute for mountain populations. Underlining and promoting this over-arching principle is the third aim of this year’s campaign.

The International Year of Mountains 2002

The United Nations has proclaimed 2002 as the International Year of Mountains (IYM) to increase international awareness of the global importance of mountain life and its sustainability. The International Year of Mountains represents an important step in the long-term process initiated by the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The major outcome of this Conference was Agenda 21, a global blueprint for sustainable development into the 21st century. Agenda 21’s Chapter 13, entitled “Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Sustainable Mountain Development”, placed mountains as a key issue in the global debate on environment and development. Please check for more information.

For more information please contact

Nicole Appel,
Promotion and Public Awareness Officer,
ISDR Secretariat,,
the Regional Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean at
ISDR Regional Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean:
Centro Ejecutivo Ofimall,
Mall San Pedro Tercer Piso,
Apdo. 3745-1000 Costa Rica
Tel (506) 224-1186,
Fax (506) 224-7758