An International Meeting on Climate Change Adaptation and Integrated Risk Management at the Local Level
A Communication Strategy in Junín, Mendoza, Argentina
All over the world, there is an increasing interest and growing concern about the consequences of global climate variability and change. It is even beginning to be expressed in local areas where there was previously very little information about the origins of these processes. Our experience has shown that it is important to design communication strategies that help communities be better informed and prepared to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. The work is based on the objectives and priorities stated in the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) and in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It employs a holistic vision that considers the most common hazards in the region, in order to achieve efficient and integrated risk management within the context of local sustainable development.
In the province of Mendoza, a number of hydro-meteorological hazards have had a significant effect on the economy, which is based primarily on agro-industrial activities. These climate-related events, such as hailstorms, foehn winds (zonda), and frosts, are impacting the services infrastructure and producing other collateral damage. The costs of repairing, rebuilding, and rehabilitating such structures are growing considerably. These and others events must be approached based on the paradigm of integrated local risk management.
The idea for the meeting came up when a group of people from eastern Mendoza province decided they wanted to get involved and mobilize efforts to find the best way for all sectors of the local community, including the government, to learn about, understand, and take planned action to reduce vulnerability to disasters that could arise from climate-related and other natural, socio-natural, man-made and technological risks. It was decided that the best approach would be to organize a meeting to address this important issue in our region, beginning with the municipality of Junín. Various stages were established so that similar events could be held in the other municipalities in Mendoza province. The support of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) added value to the these activities, and the presence and participation of its Communications Officer, Ms. Margarita Villalobos, helped promote a greater understanding in our region about the work that the ISDR carries out in Latin America and the Caribbean.
This first call for the meeting with local participants and stakeholders was made by inviting experts, specialists, non-governmental organizations, universities, research centers, schools, representatives of the wine-producing industries, chambers of commerce, and consultants, among others, to participate in this effort. Special emphasis was placed on involving local residents.
|Background information for this event included the proceedings, conclusions, and recommendations of the “Conference on Climate Variability, Change, Risk, and Management” and the “Science and Policy Forum on Climate-Related Risk Management” which took place in Panama City on November 19-24, 2006, and was organized by IAI, NSF, ISDR, FLACSO, CATHALAC, CRID, and ANAM. The results of the International Seminar on Integrated Risk and Vulnerability Management in Latin American and Caribbean Municipalities, and the regional workshop titled “Basis for Strengthening a Municipal Information Systems for Disaster Prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean” that took place in San José, Costa Rica on April 16-23, 2007 were also taken into account.
The meeting format included a communications strategy that made possible a more precise understanding of local natural hazards and helped participants understand that, while hazards may be inevitable, it is possible to foster a greater commitment to reducing existing vulnerabilities in the region. This message paved the way to begin addressing the issue with accessible language, educational presentations, spaces for reflection, and active participation of experts and attendees. It was also an effective communication channel with the local community, which generously offered its unconditional support.
The “Dueño del Sol” Park, (the place strategically selected to hold the meeting) was nice, functional, and accessible for the community. The experts’ presentations took place inside a special “mobile structure” (a carpa (tent), or burbuja (bubble), as it is called in our province), which held up to 200 attendees in an environment surrounded by vineyards, and fruit and olive trees. Most of the participants said that future gatherings should be held in similar environments, in spaces surrounded by nature.
Summary of the strategy design
This first meeting was structured around a 2007-2015 timeline. 2015 is the key date by which we must meet our goals. This is also in line with the timeframe for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Our experience has helped us analyze our strengths and weaknesses, since one of the goals is “ongoing improvement” through the implementation of quality standards.
We wish to highlight the fact that a number of artistic and communications activities were planned to support this strategy. They were carried out in the framework of the “Worldwide Network for Protecting the Planet” campaign, (Red Mundial de Protección del Planeta”) with the goal of fostering a commitment to a “culture of risk prevention.” Risk prevention was discussed and activities were organized in two phases: a) reflection and public information activities through governmental channels and in schools throughout the department of Junín, and b) agreement on guidelines for the creation of a Red Mundial de Protección del Planeta, which was proposed after the conference. This network, whose initial effort began in Junín, can be consolidated through Internet-based exchanges with students from other regions and countries, in the context of “prevention and action” projects. Later, meetings will be organized with members of the network (students, teachers, and the educational community in general), in order to consolidate these virtual relationships and turn them into valuable human interactions of direct communication.
Tentative dates have been established for holding new meetings during 2008 and 2009. Other experts, specialists, and technical support staff from international, national, provincial, and especially local institutions will be invited to interact with the community in these new meetings.
A strong organizing team was established months before the conference was held. Leadership was shared, which contributed to effective decision-making and the smooth implementation of various activities. A very positive partnership was created between the private and public sectors, in this case between the municipality of Junín, the Junín Chamber of Tourism, TresArt (Communications and Design), and Bratschi Consulting, with the institutional support of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), which sent its Communications Officer, Ms. Margarita Villalobos, as their representative to the conference.
The authors of the initial project and idea—Gloria Bratschi and Marcelo Bartolomé, with the collaboration of Georgina Santinon—were strategic in creating an event that would be attractive, original, and held in a rural area that would “speak for itself.” In this natural environment, people who attended the conference spoke about climate-related hazards and were able to combine daily-life observations with scientific knowledge, lessons learned, and experiences shared by the speakers during the three-day gathering.
As mentioned before, the activities took place under a large, specially conditioned tent that held up to 200 people. It was set up in the “Dueño del Sol” Park, just one kilometer from downtown Junín.
Several “rural inns” were used to house our national and international visitors. These places also helped visitors integrate themselves into the culture and have a direct experience with the local idiosyncrasy, scenery, and agro-industrial production. In addition, tours were organized to local industrial establishments (olive oil factories and wine cellars). This helped participants visualize other aspects that are directly related to an integrated type of local risk management aimed at protecting the population and the production that sustains the area.
Basic aspects of our vision
The philosophy that guided this project was based on the purest meaning of the word “encuentro” (“encounter”), in terms of the respect for various points of view, proactive communication, exchange of information and experiences, a gender focus, mutual learning, and the stimulation of human development.
All the presentations and working groups encouraged participants to learn more about the HFA, the MDGs, and the IPCC reports, and to better identify international organizations working on disaster risk reduction at the municipality level. In fact, all current local stakeholders now have a much clearer and more defined and participatory role to play. Those who rule, live, produce, trade, and educate others within the bounds of this municipality now understand more clearly, concretely, and visibly the hazards present in their immediate environment. An integrated local risk management can stimulate, nourish, and optimize prevention policies designed by central institutions to promote mitigation and “resilience at all levels” (HFA). Sustainable local development must be approached in the same way, in the sense that every development plan, program, or investment project must include a risk reduction management component that will help guarantee the safety and sustainability of infrastructure projects, new technology, the expansion and/or reconversion of agricultural or livestock production, exports and imports, industrial development, and small and medium sized businesses, etc., while ensuring that they do not add more short- and long-term vulnerabilities.
While the conference focused on helping communities adapt to climate change, participants also looked at the most common risks in the region, in order to see how natural hazards can relate to inappropriate human action, and the lack of controls and sanctions on behaviors that can cause harm to life and property.
Conclusions and recommendations
The first key conclusion is that the municipalities, as governmental organizations, not only need to implement an integrated type of local risk management as part of their sustainable processes, but also need to strengthen their institutional capacities to plan and implement mitigation activities that will provide an optimum response to emergencies, and facilitate cost-effective repair, reconstruction, and rehabilitation processes after a disaster. All of municipal members should know and understand this new paradigm and be very clear about what to do before, during, and after an emergency situation or a disaster. As public officials, these are the people (from the mayor down to the lowest level employee) who are responsible for protecting human lives and property. This also means that governance and institutional integrity must be guaranteed in case of an emergency or a disaster.
|It is important to highlight that the working groups, which were multidisciplinary and included the participation of the community, were a very positive mechanism that allowed people from diverse viewpoints and perspectives to reach consensus on conclusions and problem-solving proposals.
This conference was the first in a series of activities that we have undertaken together. Since we need to work more closely with each other in order to reduce our vulnerability to hazards of natural, socio-natural, man-made, and technological origin, we will continue to walk down this path. We trust that together and through local efforts we can build “a safer world for all.”
Our deepest thanks to the UNISDR.
Integrated risk management and institutional communication
Educational and institutional communications
Collaborated: Georgina Santinon