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



Law 337: A Landmark in Disaster Legislation in Nicaragua

On 8 March 2000, the National Assembly of Nicaragua passed Law 337, which created the National Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Response System—a true landmark in emergency reduction and response for the Central American country.
The law set out the principles, standards, and instruments that would guide the establishment of a nation-wide system aimed at preventing, mitigating, and responding to natural and man-made disasters from a comprehensive and up-to-date perspective.

Among the principles enshrined in Law 337 are the following:

  • The need to handle disasters in integral fashion, taking into account all environmental, social and economic aspects.
  • The need for interinstitutional, multisectoral and interdisciplinary coordination.
  • The preservation of civil rights in emergency situations.
  • Administrative decentralization.
  • Citizen participation.
  • The need to ensure appropriate funding for these activities.
  • The integration of risk reduction into all development plans and investments, whether in the public or private sector.
  • The declaration of all these activities being in the public interest.
    In addition, the new National System does not involve the creation of new bureaucratic structures. Instead, it establishes coordinating bodies for all those government agencies already active in the disaster reduction field.

The system is made up of:

  • A National Committee, which steers and supervises the entire process.
  • A total of nine Sectoral Working Committees.
  • Municipal, departmental (provincial) and, in the case of the Atlantic coast, regional committees.

In addition, a Disaster Operations Center (CODE) has been established, as well as a national Disaster Fund to provide prompt funding for current or imminent disaster situations.

An Executive Secretariat coordinates the various Committees and serves as the technical body in charge of managing the Fund. It is also the entity that carries out the mandates of the National Committee.

All national government institutions, decentralized state organizations, municipal governments and other members of the National System are called upon by law to set up Technical Liaison Units that can serve as focal points for disaster reduction, and coordinate efforts with their counterparts in all other relevant institutions.

The law incorporates a strong component of citizen participation, in order to ensure that timely cooperation takes place between the private and public sectors and civil society.

Julio Icaza Gallard in a legal advisor to the Executive Secretariat of the National Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Response System of Nicaragua.

For more information please contact Julio Icaza, Asesoría Jurídica, Secretaría Ejecutiva del Sistema Nacional para la Prevención, Mitigación y Atención de Desastres, at