Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
|Creative Education: A Priority for a New Generation
The next few years represent a very special challenge for our world. Facing problems such as ongoing conflicts between countries and ethnic groups, environmental degradation, resource mismanagement, and poverty will require great effort and creativity. That is, of course, if humankind wishes to overcome a situation of great suffering that may indeed prove unsustainable in the long run. In many places, the relationship between humans and their ecological and social environments, requires a profound change if we hope to achieve sustainable development and reduce disaster risks. Risk reduction is not an isolated act; it is very much linked to our attitudes towards ourselves and others, to our sense of civic-mindedness as a society, to our social consciousness and to the ways in which we relate to everything around us. A society that is determined to seek effective and balanced models for disaster reduction also tends to be a society that will make progress in other sustainable development spheres.
Education is frequently touted as the most important factor for achieving sustainable development, and is used as an important means for changing attitudes and behaviors vis-à-vis risk management. The Hyogo Framework for Action, which was adopted by 168 nations in January 2005, recognizes this and encourages governments and civil society to "use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels."
On June 15, 2006, in order to further the debate over the use of educational strategies as tools for risk reduction in the most diverse places of our planet, the ISDR and its partners launched the biennial campaign titled "Disaster Reduction Begins at School", at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris, France. The purpose of this campaign is to inform and mobilize governments, communities, and individuals to ensure that disaster risk reduction is mainstreamed into school curricula in countries at risk, and that school buildings are constructed to resist natural hazards. The campaign will last until the end of 2007, but will continue thereafter under the auspices of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.
Recently, the ISDR LAC regional unit and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) organized a working meeting titled “Identifying collaboration tools and mechanisms for the inclusion of disaster risk reduction management into the education sector in Latin America.” The meeting was held at UNICEF and UNDP headquarters in the City of Knowledge, Panama, on June 14-16, 2006, and was attended by more than 30 leading practitioners representing a variety of international organizations active in related educational initiatives. The primary goal of the meeting was to identify concrete actions in Latin America, including products, tools, and modalities for cooperation, in order to advance the integration of disaster risk management into the education sector. The emphasis was on primary education, guaranteeing the right of children to live in a safe environment, and ensuring access to education in emergency situations.
Since we know that education is one of the most pressing priorities,
we must also recognize the amount of work that this important endeavor
entails. Education is not an easy task and in order to alter attitudes,
opinions and behavior, ongoing efforts are required, often for long periods
of time. Single, short-term projects are not, and will not, be able to
achieve this longer-term, more encompassing goal. Therefore, although
the process may be slow, it is important to continue devoting effort
towards affecting real and substantial change. Most people take quite
some time in altering their perceptions and behaviors and in realizing
that they can be active participants in affecting positive change for
themselves and for their communities.
In the field of risk reduction, large sectors of the population, including decision makers and politicians, are not aware of the importance of reducing disaster risks, nor do they know how to carry out actions and strategies for disaster risk prevention. For some, risk reduction is an issue that has little or no relevance. This perception is both ill-based and potentially harmful.
Generally, for us to become ‘aware’ of a particular issue — and to be subsequently change our behavior— certain conditions are required. On one hand, information must be available, accessible and meaningful, and on the other, it must also motivate people to process and analyze it, and take appropriate and timely action.
To be successful at raising awareness, we must also provide, relevant information, including realistic examples and experiential knowledge, which will help the recipients, our target groups, believe that this information and knowledge is indeed useful to them, and will likely work towards improving their quality of life. Furthermore, if the information transmitted is able to spark an internal process that makes recipients feel like it speaks to them, that it is applicable to some areas of their lives, or that it relates to one of their personal feelings or social values, then it will be much easier for this information, this experience, to create the ‘awareness’ we want people to have. Finally, it is appropriate to take into account there are numerous proven and innovative models designed for ensuring clarity in communication and evoking attitudinal change.
The following are some examples of activities that can be implemented to raise awareness about disaster prevention and risk management:
important to remember that education is not static. At least, it should
not be. It is not
a passive relationship between the transmitter
and recipient, but rather a dynamic process that, stimulates creative
capacities thus yielding better results from which to provide future
generations with a greater understanding of their environment and with
the necessary motivation to build a more resilient society. The biennial
campaign "Disaster Reduction Begins at School." marks an excellent
starting point to think about new educational approaches and a wonderful
opportunity to share experiences and learn from one another.