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



Towards a Safer World for All
Road map from Yokohama to Kobe

Human and economic losses due to natural disasters have continued to increase despite efforts undertaken by Governments and the international community to raise awareness of risk reduction needs, in particular fostered by the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR, 1990-1999). Global summaries for 2002 report the occurrence of over 500 disasters, with more than 10,000 people killed, 600 million people affected, US$ 55 billion in total damages and US$ 13 billion in insured losses. Developing countries are disproportionately affected, with their losses rising to about five times higher per unit of GDP than for rich countries, sometimes exceeding a year or more of hard-won and desperately needed economic development.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, during the last three decades, more than 150 million people have been affected by natural disasters; more than 100,000 have died and more than 12 million have been direct victims of these phenomena. In addition, the total amount of damage caused by disasters –without being too exhaustive- for the entire region is more than US$ 65 million. Countries that are relatively less developed and of smaller size, particularly in the Andean Region, Central America and the Caribbean small island developing states, are among the most affected ones. It is also estimated that in a ten-year period, damage caused by disasters in the region has amounted to 20 million dollars, 45,000 deaths and 40 million victims. (source: ECLAC)

The underlying problems of growing vulnerability to natural and technological hazards are largely an outcome of short-sighted development activities. Every day development decisions being made at local, national and international levels, are more often a factor that increases the vulnerability to hazard than reduces the risk. In other words, the vulnerability of communities is growing due to human activities that lead to increased poverty, greater urban density, environmental degradation and climate change.

The UN General Assembly adopted the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in January 2000 to follow up on the IDNDR and facilitate the implementation of disaster reduction worldwide. Progress is being made and disaster reduction is now recognized as crucial for sustainable development, as stated in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation issued at the WSSD (2002). Progress and challenges were illustrated in the first global review on disaster reduction initiatives – Living with Risk – published by the ISDR Secretariat in 2002.

A review of the achievements, gaps, and critical challenges facing the international community since the adoption of the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action is now underway. A number of international, national and local policies, initiatives, scientific and technical achievements have demonstrated the feasibility of risk reduction investments. Emerging issues and opportunities related to environmental degradation and climate change, and pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, are also coming to the fore of public attention and much remains to be done to integrate these concerns into national policies.

The current context calls for an international meeting among local, national and international policy makers active in social and economic development and environmental management issues, disaster risk managers and practitioners, as well as civil society and community groups. The opportunity provided by the conclusion of the Yokohama review, as well as the 10th Anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, as well as the offer from the Government of Japan to host a World Conference in the city of Kobe-Hyogo, justifies the time and place for such a conference.

Why hold another World Conference on Disaster Reduction?

Political commitment to the disaster reduction, in terms of awareness and understanding of the importance of the issue, has been demonstrated through several agreements and declarations over the past years. One of the aims of the World conference is now to increase the commitment for implementation of risk reduction measures at all levels, including commitment for adequate funding. The World Conference is expected to identify also practical and concrete ways to incorporate disaster reduction into poverty reduction, development and environmental strategies, as well as to ensure the continuum from relief to sustainable development.

The World Conference will build on the findings of the review of implementation of the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action of 1994. The review aims at:

• Assessing achievements and identifying good practices since its adoption 1994;
• Defining the remaining gaps, critical needs, and opportunities in disaster reduction initiatives worldwide,
and to examine new emerging issues, such as climate change, environmental degradation, pandemics, etc.
• Developing elements for an articulated program for action for disaster risk reduction for 2005-2015 to implement the relevant MDGs and objectives of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation for Sustainable Development.

The Conference will also contribute to raise awareness of the urgency to focus on people and community needs, and of policy development and action at global, regional, national and local levels for the development of a culture of prevention as an essential component of and prerequisite for sustainable development.

Several regional and thematic meetings and other events are being held prior to the Second World Conference in 2003 and 2004, in order to examine achievements and lessons learned on disaster risk reduction, identify the gaps and propose solutions for future action. The recent Second International Conference on Early Warning (EWCII), which took place in Bonn, Germany, (16-18 October) is part of this process. The conference gathered over 300 participants, including ministers and government officials, NGOs, Mayors, representatives of UN agencies, and technical and research institutions, to discuss solutions for integrating early warning into public policy, new technologies and low-technology solutions for early warning systems, and the responsibilities of policy makers in the context of early warning and urban risks, among other things. The recommendations and lessons learned emanating from this conference will contribute to the Yokohama review process.(for more information, see page 11)

In Latin America and the Caribbean, several thematic or regional meetings contributing to the Yokohama review were held in 2003, such as the Hemispheric Consultation on Early Warning Systems, the 6th Congress on Disaster Management (25-28 November, Havana, Cuba) and the Forum Mitch + 5. More regional consultations are scheduled for the year 2004 with several regional partner organizations. Further information on these meetings as well as on the Yokohama review in general, will be posted regularly on the ISDR websites (, and )

We hope that you enjoy this issue of ISDR Informs. Comments and suggestions are welcome, in particular those than can help us improve this magazine. We would also like to encourage you to send us information on your own experiences and lessons learned regarding disaster reduction so that we can share them with the rest of the region.

“…Millenium Development Goals cannot be reached unless the heavy human and economic toll of disasters is reduced.”

WSSD, Johannesburg, 2002

The Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction will represent a milestone event to increase the international profile of disaster risk reduction and promote its integration into development planning and practice in order to strengthen local and national capacities to address the causes of disasters which continue to devastate and impede the development of many countries. A program of Action for the decade 2005-2015, is expected to be produced by the Conference.

1-UN General Assembly Res/57/256 “Requests the Secretary-General, with the assistance of the Inter.-agency secretariat for the Strategy, to plan and coordinate, in consultation with Governments and relevant organizations of the United Nations System, including the financial institutions, the 2004 review of the Yokohama Strategy.”

For more information, please contact:
UN/ISDR Latin America and the Caribbean
San Jose, Costa Rica