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


Modifying the Behaviour of a People to Reduce Disaster Vulnerability
Cap.Navio (r). Carlos Barandiaran

More effective prevention strategies would save not only tens of billions of dollars, but save tens of thousands of lives. Funds currently spent on intervention and relief could be devoted to enhancing equitable and sustainable development instead, which would further reduce the risk for war and disaster. Building a culture of prevention is not easy. While the costs of prevention have to be paid in the present, its benefits lie in a distant future. Moreover, the benefits are not tangible; they are the disasters that did not happen.
- Kofi Annan

This quote by the UN Secretary General aptly summarizes the mission of the Peruvian National Civil Defence Institute (INDECI): to build, through ongoing education and training, a culture of prevention among a people who suffer year after year from the destructive consequen-ces of the inappropriate interaction of human beings with nature.

During the 28 January-8 February meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, it was concluded that in the past four decades economic losses world-wide due to disasters have increased tenfold, and approximately 97% of disaster-related deaths around the world occur in developing countries like Peru. By 2050, the Commission warned, natural disasters will be responsible for the loss of 100,000 human lives a year, as well as US$300,000 million in economic losses. After a disaster has struck, indirect losses to trade, particularly in the informal sector, often go undetected and are therefore left off the bottom line. Disaster response and related humanitarian aid absorb significant resources that could otherwise be devoted to development efforts. But the most interesting conclusion that emerged from the meeting was this: Vulnerability to disasters is a function of human behaviour.

It is this conviction that explains the existence of one of INDECI’s three major divisions: the National Education and Training Directorate, which strives to modify human conduct through education and training carefully designed to meet the real needs of the population.

INDECI was established by decree as part of the National Civil Defence System (SINADECI). Article 2 of Decree 19338 says that one of the objectives of the System is raising awareness concerning civil Defence and the role of citizens. Article 3 goes on to state that the population must be instructed in its responsibilities in the event of disasters and other emergencies. Another decree set out the responsibilities of the various components of SINADECI, and mandated Civil Defence Committees, in their respective jurisdictions, to guide and promote citizen training in order to mitigate the consequences of natural disasters.

Based on this legal framework, the National Education and Training Directorate is the government department in charge of planning, organizing, coordinating and supervising the training components of the National Civil Defence Policy, including the training of SINADECI member institutions, and is ultimately responsible for promoting a culture of prevention among the more that 24 million inhabitants of Peru.

The Directorate’s mission, accordingly, is to generate as well as disseminate knowledge about disaster reduction through the analysis and discussion of adverse events that have taken place or are likely to occur, so as to raise the awareness of the citizenry concerning risks and vulnerabilities.

Three lines of action guide the Directorate:

  1. Strategic planning aimed at organizing and taking the fullest possible advantage of the potentials and capacity of the population to reduce vulnerability and risk.
  2. Capacity building among vulnerable communities to confront natural and man-made hazards through the distribution of print and audiovisual material on the various hazards and the best measures to mitigate and respond to their impact.
  3. Contributing to the establishment and strengthening of a culture of prevention through education, training, and dissemination programs.

Based on these strategic guidelines, five training modules have been developed and implemented for the following audiences: (1) SINADECI officials, (2) teachers, (3) technical civil Defence inspectors, (4) media workers, and (5) relief and rescue workers.

Regional, multidisciplinary training groups work in a decentralized fashion through Regional Civil Defence Directorates that are scattered throughout the Peruvian territory. Inter-institutional cooperation involves organizations such as the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)’s SUMA emergency supply management initiative, and the Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (OFDA/USAID).

Initiatives still in the planning stages include training courses in collaboration with the above-mentioned agencies, the launching of a transnational course for officials working on both sides of the border with Ecuador, and the reinforcement of joint training initiatives involving non-governmental organizations such as the Peruvian Red Cross, CARE Peru, and Caritas.

In 2000, 45 courses were held throughout the country. In 2001, the figure rose to 249 after the Regional Training Groups began to operate in August. This year, the goal is to double that amount. At least 521 courses will be held, 147 of which will be aimed at teachers, 145 at SINADECI authorities, 119 at relief workers, 57 at media workers and 53 at Civil Defence inspectors.

Beneficiaries will include 5,880 teachers, 4,760 relief workers, 4,350 SINADECI officials, 1,908 civil Defence inspectors, and 1,710 media workers, providing training to a total of 18,608 individuals.

The courses will be geographically distributed as follows:

Location No. of courses

1 st Region


2nd Region


3rd Region


4th Region


5th Region




For more information please contact:
Carlos Barandiaran is a retired ship captain.
Mr. Barandiaran at Dirección Nacional
de Educación y Capacitación,
Instituto Nacional de Defensa Civil,