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)
Natural hazards and climate change adaptation: programmatic overview

Organizational Approach: The Department of Sustainable Development (DSD) supports a multidisciplinary approach to identifying and reducing the economic, development and human costs of natural disasters affecting OAS Member States. In this regard, the Department continues to provide policy and technical assistance and capacity-building to countries of the Hemisphere in preparing for, and adapting to, the impacts of natural hazards.

The Natural Hazards and Climate Change Adaptation Program of the OAS/DSD is the main service provider for OAS Member States to identify and reduce the risks associated with natural hazards. Program activities reflect the requests from countries, aim at complementing efforts of other international and regional organizations and use other program areas within the OAS/DSD, such as sustainable energy, integrated water resource management, legal reforms and enforcement, land tenure, governance and educational outreach.

Natural Hazards and Climate Change Adaptation Program Strategy: The objective of the program is to reduce the risks associated with weather-related natural hazards, by helping to increase the resilience of OAS member states, communities and physical assets to natural disaster impacts. In order to complement the technical assistance priorities noted below, the Department will identify opportunities to mainstream natural hazard risk management policies within development planning, and economic and fiscal planning cycles, through cost-benefit and other economic analysis.

Photo: D. Smith

The program works to achieve its goals of reducing vulnerability to the effects of natural hazards by implementing the following activities:

1. Promotion of Safer Construction: Private and public sector building practices are a key factor in preventing damage from disasters, particularly damage to public buildings such as schools, critical facilities and tourism sector infrastructure, and private buildings such as housing.

The program:

  • Encourages efforts of Member States and communities to adopt building codes and standards that reduce the risks of natural disasters;
  • Provides support to governments, including municipal authorities, in the on-going monitoring and enforcement of building codes and standards, through training and the sharing of practices; and
  • Develops a cost-benefit analysis of the effects of building codes in relation to economic consequences of disaster and recovery periods.

2. Support for Innovative Financial Mechanisms: The program provides support to regional initiatives aimed at integrating financial mechanisms, institutional frameworks and governmental arrangements for risk transfer through the promotion of combined regional insurance and reinsurance pooling strategies, and integrating construction quality insurance practices in governmental physical planning, and in mortgages and banking industries. The program will provide assistance to governments in possible regulatory reviews and reforms to support financing mechanisms.

3. Strengthening of Infrastructure Management: Economic and social infrastructure is impacted, damaged, and destroyed by natural disasters. The program works with key public officials to help improve natural hazard risk management policies, urban planning, and hazard mitigation strategies for key public infrastructure sectors including electrical power, transportation and communication.

4. Land Use Management and Planning: To address the vulnerability of communities to the impacts of natural hazards/climate change, as well as the loss of ecosystem functions and services, the program supports the implementation of sustainable land use management practices at both the community and institutional levels, and through the DSD Land Titling and Property Rights initiatives, seeks to incorporate land tenure data in disaster vulnerability reduction plans and in field assessments for post-disaster housing reconstruction efforts. The program also promotes the strengthening of property rights to enable a mortgage loan market and a natural disasters homeowners’ insurance program, and the institutional mainstreaming of land use management policies.

5. Strengthening of Regional and Hemispheric Natural Hazards Networks: The program will establish a hemispheric network of national, regional, and international agencies involved in natural hazard mitigation activities, to enhance synergies and to improve risk reduction and risk mitigation actions.

Governance-related matters, including gender and public awareness, represent a cross-cutting issue, taken into consideration in all activities carried out.

The following are some of the services that the DSD offers to OAS Member States, in order to implement the natural hazard strategy:

  1. Public awareness, including the implementation of social statistical analysis aimed at fostering behavioral changes.
  2. Education, which includes formal and informal education programs intended for local communities at large.
  3. Political and legal reforms: this involves the identification and creation of networks in order to exchange existing legal frameworks at the national level. Training, which includes efforts to support training programs for both staff members and local communities, in collaboration with institutions specializing in natural disaster risk mitigation.
  4. Capacity building, including the creation and the strengthening of local and regional institutions, as well as the development of new ties and networks among them.
  5. Applied technology, which involves the implementation of early warning systems, hazard modeling techniques, climate monitoring stations, etc.
  6. Best practices, including sustainable farming and forestry practices, and coastal management techniques, such as green hotel certification programs.

For further information on the DSD program, please contact:
Pedro Bastidas