ISDR Informs The Americas

The Knowledge Fair in El Salvador: "Reducing Disasters and Adapting to Climate Change"

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The Knowledge Fair titled “Reducing disasters and adapting to climate change: Transferring experiences and promoting cooperation among Caribbean countries”, held on May 22-23, 2008, gathered more than 250 people, including representatives and delegations from organizations and institutions that deal with risk reduction in Central America. The fair venue was the Central American University (UCA), in San Salvador, El Salvador.

In attendance of the opening ceremony, held in the Building D Auditorium at UCA, were Mr. Roberto Escalante, Vice-Minister of the Environment; Mr. David Smith, Executive Secretary of the Coordination Center for Natural Disaster Prevention in Central America (CEPREDENAC); Ms. Francesca Mosca, Ambassador and Head of the European Commission Delegation to Central America and Panama; and Mr. Richard Barathe, Deputy Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in El Salvador, among others.

The two days were full of activities aimed at sharing experiences, as well as presentations and demonstrations of what the region is doing and promoting in relation to risk reduction and climate change adaptation, particularly focusing on disaster preparedness and early warning systems (EWS) at national and community levels. All these activities were guided by one of the priorities established the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) to “use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels.”

Five thematic roundtables and discussion panels addressed current affairs in the region, giving the floor to some 28 panelists who represented regional agencies, ministries, municipalities, cooperation agencies, etc. The themes of these roundtables were: I) Recovery in the region: Ten years after Hurricane Mitch; II) Gender equality and risk management; III) Risk management and climate change adaptation; IV) Urban risk; and V) From the local to the regional level.

In addition, four presentation sessions on tools and experiences showcased a total of 16 tools and 10 cases related to disaster preparedness and local risk management experiences and practices. These were grouped based on four main themes: I) Infrastructure and small mitigation projects; II) Local disaster management; III) Information, education and communication; and IV) Institutional strengthening and advocacy. The fair also included the launching of the book titled “Superar la Desigualdad, Reducir el Riesgo” (Overcoming Inequality, Reducing Risk), which was presented by Mr. Arnaud Peral, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Mexico, where it was published.

The fair also hosted two workshops, two presentations and one training course. The first workshop was on “Sub-practices for risk reduction and recovery,” and was attended by 37 participants, including UNDP focal points, United Nations’ Volunteers (UNVs), national advisors, and staff from the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR). The second workshop was titled “Linking risk management and climate change adaptation,” which was attended by 30 people, including those in charge of the National Communications on Climate Change (NCCCs), national coordinators of the UNDP Small Grants Program (SGP), and UNDP and BCPR focal points. The first presentation was on safe hospitals, delivered by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO). The second presentation was titled “The recovery process in Tabasco,” and was given by Mr. Gustavo Jasso Gutiérrez, Secretary of Planning for the government of the State of Tabasco. On the second day of the fair, Handicap International also taught a course on “How can we take disabilities into account in emergency preparedness and response?”

Needless to say, all the lectures, presentations and sessions were inspiring and instructive. We learned a great deal from our colleagues and we all left the fair quite eager to learn more and keep talking about these issues.

The fair was also a place to share and demonstrate practices, tools and products. There were 28 stands, where emergency and disaster prevention agencies, academic and research institutions, non-governmental organizations and cooperation agencies displayed their publications, outreach material, videos, and in general the work done, to participants, students and the public. Three thematic stands displayed a variety of materials on the following issues: I) Urban risk; II) Risk management and climate change adaptation; and III) Recovery processes.

Alongside these open activities, two halls were reserved for demonstrations and exhibits: a) the technical hall, where participants exhibited tools, construction modules, disaster inventory software, and community EWSs; and b) the education and health hall, reserved for a module on safe hospitals, the winners of a children’s painting contest, an exhibition of educational materials, and for playing the “Riskland” game.

Finally, participants were very interested in following-up on cooperation and coordination efforts. To this end, a first step was taken to start a Registry of South-South Cooperation Initiatives, by asking agencies and institutions to voluntarily sign expressions of interest. The knowledge fair laid the groundwork for continuing South-South cooperation, and some 135 intention agreements were signed. Thus, the first actions were taken to establish collaboration, cooperation and exchange agreements among different countries, organizations and institutions of the Caribbean.

Fair participants

The fair was a meeting point for over one hundred renowned national, regional and international specialists from the following institutions: the Coordination Center for Natural Disaster Prevention in Central America (CEPREDENAC), the Federation of Municipalities in Central America (FEMICA), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the Network of Andean Cities, the gender equity website America Latina Genera, the OSSO Corporation, the Minister of the Ecuadorian Coasts, the Secretariat of Planning of the Government of Tabasco, the European Commission, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the United States Office of Disaster Assistance (OFDA), the German Cooperation Agency (GTZ), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (COSUDE/SDC), the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), the United Nations Volunteer Program (UNV), the Pan-American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the Office of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), the United Nations Children’s’ Fund (UNICEF), the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), and the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Other participating agencies were: I) for Panama: the National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC), and the Panama City Municipal Government; II) for Costa Rica: the National Emergency Commission (CNE), the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI); III) for Nicaragua: the National Disaster Response and Prevention System (SINAPRED), the National Institute of Territorial Studies (INETER), the Civil Defense Bureau of Nicaragua; IV) for Honduras: the Standing Committee on Contingencies (COPECO), the Institute of Earth Sciences (UNAH); V) for Guatemala: the National Coordinating Committee for Disaster Reduction (CONRED), the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH); VI) for El Salvador: the Civil Protection Bureau, the National System for Territorial Studies (SNET), the Planning Office for San Salvador Metropolitan Area (OPAMSS), the first responder group titled Comandos de Salvamento, the San Salvador Municipal Government, and the Salvadoran Red Cross, among others.

The fair also had the full and active participation and collaboration of a number of the European Commission’s partner agencies for the implementation of the current DIPECHO action plan: CARE, the Spanish Red Cross, OIKOS, Oxfam Solidarité, ACH, the Dutch Red Cross, Oxfam UK, Trocaire, GOAL, DanChurchAid, the Italian Red Cross, German Agro Action (AAA), ACSUR, ACTED, Christian Aid, and GVC.

Holding knowledge fairs at universities fosters information sharing, cooperation and direct interaction among people working in this field. The events part of a whole series of activities aimed at disseminating information and practices —tools, methods and experiences— about disaster preparedness, local risk management and climate change adaptation in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Regional Knowledge Fair “Reducing disasters and adapting to climate change,” held in San Salvador, was the closing activity for the workshops held in Costa Rica on May 29, and the National Knowledge Fairs in Honduras on April 14-16, Nicaragua on April 17-18 , Guatemala on April 23-24, and El Salvador on May 21, 2008. It was also the third activity of this type held in the region. The first and second Knowledge Transfer Fairs were held in the Caribbean: in Barbados, in December 2006 and in the Dominican Republic, in February 2007. These activities are all part of the project titled “Promoting knowledge transfer and replication of good practices in disaster preparedness and risk reduction in the Caribbean,” co-funded by ECHO, through the DIPECHO Program, and UNDP/BCPR.

For further information, please visit our website,, or contact Angeles Arenas
Regional Advisor, Disaster Reduction, UNDP/BCPR-LAC,
or Linda Zilbert (, Project Coordinator.