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


Organization of American States (OAS)
Workshop on Natural Hazard Risk Management First Inter-American Meeting of Ministers and High-Level Authorities on Sustainable Development

With the primary goal of creating a series of proposals and recommendations to be considered by OAS Member States during the preparatory phase of the Inter-American Meeting of Ministries and High-Level Authorities on Sustainable Development, to be held in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia on October 5-6, 2006, the OAS Department of Sustainable Development (DSD) helped organize a number of preparatory workshops to provide technical and expert recommendations, and address the three main issues that will be included during this meeting in Bolivia:

a) Integrated water-resource management.
b) Sustainable agriculture, forestry, and tourism.
c) Natural hazard risk management, natural disaster risk sharing and risk transfer arrangements.

The Workshop on Natural Hazard Risk Management was held in Kingston, Jamaica, on April 18-19, 2006 with the local support of the Office for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management of Jamaica (ODPEM).

During the workshop, a group of experts and specialists shared their knowledge and expertise in order to advance policy guidelines, strategies, and priority actions to reduce the effects of natural hazards. The workshop preparation process highlighted the importance of governance-related initiatives, including broad-based representation from the public and private sectors, gender equality, and inclusion of and respect for indigenous peoples. The discussion also highlighted the following priority areas related to natural disaster risk reduction:

(i) Identify projects, policies and partnerships that help make progress in terms of both risk mitigation and risk transfer, particularly those related to governance, adaptation monitoring and enforcement of building codes and standards, and land-use planning and zoning.
(ii) Strengthen economic analyses associated with the benefits and costs of risk mitigation and risk sharing, and integrate risk mitigation and expenditures into development and economic planning.
(iii) Identify best practices in the adoption of risk mitigation technical standards.
(iv) Identify specific risk sharing and risk transfer initiatives at the regional and sub-regional levels, including those initiatives carried out through insurance pooling.
(v) Integrate a perspective of environmental protection, social equality and sustainable development with a gender perspective in natural disasters risk management.

Context of the Meeting

During the IV Summit of the Americas —held in Mar del Plata (2005)—, whose main focus was “Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance,” a number of actions were established through the Declaration and Action Plan of Mar del Plata (2005) related to natural disasters. In the Declaration, the Member States expressed their concern over risks associated with natural disasters, and the devastating impact of such events on the lives, infrastructure and economies of the hemisphere. The Declaration calls for “action at the national, regional, and international levels to strengthen disaster management programs.”

In the Action Plan, the Member States called for more support in order to join efforts to “substantially improve the capacity at the national, regional and hemispheric levels for risk mitigation, implement cost-effective and robust early warning systems, and enhance disaster recovery and reconstruction capabilities in collaboration with relevant international and regional institutions and the coordinated development of effective public-private catastrophic risk insurances systems.”

Initiative 1 A call to increase the existing capacity for disaster preparedness.
Initiative 2 Development of early warning and risk mitigation systems.
Initiative 3 Development of post-disaster recovery and reconstruction strategies.
Initiative 4 Financial assistance as appropriate, particularly for disaster-prone countries, to reduce the impact of disasters.
Initiative 5 Member States also support current efforts to explore private and pubic sector involvement in comprehensive approaches to catastrophic risk insurance.


A particular focus of the Inter-American process is to identify partnerships at the regional and sub-regional levels. This includes assigning specific priorities, and identifying gaps and opportunities in capacity-building, information exchange and technical cooperation for risk reduction.

A key priority of the workshop was to identify ways in which risk reduction measures can be integrated into sector-specific planning, as well as cross-cutting fiscal, development and economic planning strategies.

Given the need to integrate risk reduction measures into specific regions, the workshop agenda looked at a limited number of sectors within which risk reduction efforts are underway. These included the tourism, education, and water management infrastructure sectors. The workshop also included the discussion on how best practices of risk mitigation in specific sectors can be extrapolated into other sectors.

Finally, the workshop included discussions in order to recommend opportunities for collaboration among OAS Member States in the area of risk reduction. These included opportunities to enhance the exchange of information and related coordination among different regional organizations, such as the recently-launched Comprehensive Disaster Management Plan under CDERA and other examples from North, Central, and South America.

Mainstreaming Risk Reduction: Signs of Progress or Status Quo?

The Socio-Economic Impact of Natural Disasters and Strategies for Mainstreaming Hazard Risk: of risk reduction mainstreaming refers to a number of interventions and practices that depend on the focus of the institutions and bodies being considered. For mainstreaming to be successfully achieved, it is required to conduct more pertinent economic cost-benefit analysis, engage ministries of finance and planning, as well as sector-specific agencies and ministries; have responsible focal points at the national level, adjust implementation to capacity building efforts, establish efficient mechanisms for information sharing, have ongoing international and national interventions, and create sustainable funding mechanisms that include the private sector.

Recommendations and Proposals:

  • Identify a clear body (champion) responsible for mainstreaming risk management in each country.
  • Each country should review their investment in disaster risk management, quantify how many proposed action items have been implemented or not, and then prioritize what has not been given any action.
  • Promote concrete programs that apply state policies, in particular, the adoption of programs for monitoring and enforcing building codes and standards that reduce risk in a cost-effective manner.
  • Incorporate a gender perspective in natural disaster prevention.

Sector Specific: Best Practices and Obstacles to Risk Mitigation

Tourism: Costumers (tourists) demand reasonable levels of safety (risk management). Governments (local and national) have a common interest with the private tourism sector in assuring reasonable levels of safety. The government will have to enforce reasonable safety standards for the tourism sector and related providers in order to comply with their demands.

Recommendations and Proposals:

  • The tourism sector must have an integrated vision that incorporates multiple hazards.
  • A priority for the public and private sectors must be “safety and security for tourism”: the first steps to achieve this are securing their infrastructure and their emergency plans.

Education: Education is a means for sharing knowledge about hazards, vulnerability, and emergency planning. Education is a core component for creating a culture of prevention. Risk management activities for the education sector are related to policies, planning processes, mitigation projects, and preparedness programs.

Recommendations and Proposals:

  • At the hemispheric and regional levels, it is necessary to include risk management in educational programs across the different levels of formal and informal education.
  • It is also necessary to create a regulatory framework, codes, design and construction standards and certification to assess and reduce the vulnerability of educational

Water Infrastructure: In addition to post-disaster drought and floods related to extreme weather events, communities often face high levels of water contamination and pollution in the aftermath of events, leading to immediate human health risks (such as cholera), as well as longer-term clean-up costs.

Recommendations and Proposals:

  • At the hemispheric and regional level, it is necessary to establish legal water frameworks for irrigation, industrial and domestic usage.
  • Conduct a study in water infrastructures to assess its vulnerability to natural hazards. This should include water infrastructure management, the role of water infrastructures in natural hazards mitigation, and existing vulnerability of the water infrastructures to natural hazards.

Regional Cooperation Priorities for Risk Mitigation

In the Americas, there have been a number of regional mechanisms and capacities available to support and facilitate disaster risk reduction and response at the national and community levels. These mechanisms contribute to promote the concept of disaster risk reduction and enhance the capacity of national government officials and community leaders.

Recommendations and Proposals:

  • Develop a multi-hazard system that receives early warning signals.
  • Promote public participation in a process aimed at decentralizing hazard mapping and technical tools.
  • Lay emphasis on the need for better coordination and cooperation at the international, national, and local level.
  • Highlight the efforts of the OAS to create an Inter-American mechanism for disaster reduction and the need to reinforce existing networks and cooperation among agencies, NGOs, and civil society under different scenarios.

Governance in Risk Mitigation

Supportive National Legislative Frameworks: One of the most common definitions of good governance includes its ability to support effective decision-making through the development and dissemination of information (such as hazard maps), and to ensure high levels of public and local participation.

How to Broaden Civil Society Participation? Public participation is a key factor for the effective structuring of a prevention and response system to natural disasters. Institutions such as organized communities, neighborhood organizations and non-governmental organizations, among others, should promote parallel programs in coordination with government bodies to enhance efforts directed at addressing and reducing the impact of natural disasters.

Recommendations and Proposals:

  • Promote citizen participation in educational and training programs involving governments, the private sector, civil society, and international agencies.
  • Promote the creation of legal frameworks with more emphasis on citizen participation, as a key element for building systems and regulations for disaster prevention, mitigation, and response.

For further information, please contact:
Pedro Bastidas