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


The Puebla-Panama Plan: A Mesoamerican Initiative with a Strong Disaster Reduction Component

The Puebla-Panama Plan (PPP), a proposal by the federal government of Mexico, was embraced by the countries of Central America—Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama—and the Mexican southern and south-eastern states of Campeche, Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Veracruz and Yucatan. Its goal is to raise the quality of life of the Mesoamerican region’s 60 million inhabitants—32.5 million in Central America and 27.5 million in southern Mexico.(1)

The PPP proposes a comprehensive sustainable development strategy for the region by means of a series of initiatives and investment projects aimed at promoting environmentally sustainable development with respect for the cultural and ethnic diversity of its peoples.

This strategy not only seeks to reinforce integration efforts in Central America, but also to strengthen these efforts by including southern and southeast Mexico within the concept of a Mesoamerican region. The strategy of the Puebla-Panama Plan is based on the recognition of the multiple links that define the Mesoamerican region. It incorporates initiatives and projects aimed at promoting integration and encouraging dialogue among the authorities and civil society to help consolidate a shared vision of economic and social development.

These initiatives complement traditional efforts to support cooperation and collaboration within the framework of the Tuxtla Accords of 1991 between Mexico and Central America. In a sense, then, the Puebla-Panama Plan initiatives represent the beginning of a new dialogue and joint effort to overcome poverty and increase the quality of life of the peoples of Mesoamerica.

The Central American Natural Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Initiative

The purpose of this initiative is to promote natural disaster prevention and mitigation and incorporate risk management into all PPP projects. Three project areas have been defined:

  • Development of an Insurance Market against Catastrophic Risks. The goal is to develop an efficient private insurance market against major disasters and emergencies in the region, thereby encouraging the adoption of appropriate disaster prevention and mitigation policies.
  • Hydrometeorological Information for Competitiveness. The objective is to improve the collection and dissemination of climate and hydrometeorological data for public- and private-sector decision-making in order to save lives, reduce the negative impact of natural disasters and contribute directly to the competitiveness of the region.
  • Public Awareness for Disaster Prevention. The goal is to raise public awareness of the importance of risk management and disaster reduction, encouraging discussions at the national and regional level to promote prevention, mitigation, and vulnerability reduction, as well as their integration into local culture.

The first concrete step in this initiative was a meeting held in Panama on 25 February with the participation of representatives from Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama, and such regional and international bodies as the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE), the Central American Coordination Centre for Natural Disaster Prevention (CEPREDENAC), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The purpose of the meeting was to review the objectives and content of the three major project areas and set priorities for future actions. While Panama was assigned the overall coordination of the Subcommittee for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, it was agreed that individual countries would act as focal points for each of the three project areas. Guatemala agreed to handle Development of the Insurance Market against Catastrophic Risks. Panama took over Hydrometeorological Information for Competitiveness, while Nicaragua agreed to act as a focal point for Public Awareness for Disaster Prevention.

Each country vowed to produce three documents identifying how they would adapt all three project area proposals to the characteristics of their own population and circumstances, and also assign priorities and design a process for implementing their focus objective in each of the participating countries. (The technical committee agreed to help in the development of this component.) The hope is that this transnational and cross-sectoral exercise will help to sharpen priorities, identify challenges, and strengthen networking among member states. A technical meeting will subsequently be held on each project area in order to devise specific projects for all the countries participating in the Puebla-Panama Plan.

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  1. Mesoamerica—meaning “Middle America”—is a region that is closely linked not only geographically but also ecologically and culturally, as the land-bridge between North and South America, the home of a significant proportion of the biodiversity of the Americas, and the traditional territory of Mayan, Chibcha and other Pre-Columbian indigenous groups.