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

Newsletter for Latin America and the Caribbean        Inssue No. 15, 1999


The Decade is over and the new Millennium is just beginning…Next step will be the joint implementation of an International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

The positive results achieved by the IDNDR set-up globally, and especially the regional arrangements for Latin America and the Caribbean, have been recognized in several national, regional and international forums and meetings. Major achievements are mentioned in the areas of putting the disaster prevention and vulnerability reduction topic on the agenda of many local, national and international organizations through multisectoral networking, advocacy and public awareness raising, to enhance the implementation of public policy towards disaster reduction and the building of a disaster prevention culture.

Nevertheless, natural and technological disasters are on the rise. Climate change, environmental degradation, population increase, rapid urbanization and industrialization, as well as increasing poverty in large sectors of the population, make us more vulnerable to disasters – and risks are increasing. About 90% of disaster victims live in developing countries. Given that the above pressures continue to increase, the disaster trend is likely to worsen as well if we do not take disaster prevention more seriously, and integrate it into development issues. It is therefore more imperative than ever to enhance disaster prevention, integrated risk management, and vulnerability reduction in the international, governmental, local and private agendas. Disaster reduction seeks to reduce the vulnerability of societies to the effects of disasters, and also to address their man-made causes and improve the capacity to cope.

Hurricanes Mitch and George left in their wake more than 13,000 victims in Central America and the Caribbean in 1998. Mitch was the deadliest Atlantic tropical storm in 200 years. The cost of climate-related disasters in 1998 alone exceeded the cost of all such disasters in the 1980s combined.

In his introduction to the Secretary General’s Annual Report on the Work of the Organization of United Nations for1999, Mr. Kofi Anan says, “There is a clear financial incentive for disaster reduction and prevention. In the 1960s, natural disasters caused some US$52 billion in damage; in the 1990s, the cost has already reached US$479 billion. More effective prevention strategies would save not only tens of billions of dollars, but save tens of thousands of lives. Funds currently spent on intervention and relief could be devoted to enhancing equitable and sustainable development instead, which would further reduce the risk of war and disaster.

“Building a culture of prevention is not easy. While the costs of prevention have to be paid in the present, its benefits lie in a distant future. Moreover, the benefits are not tangible; that are the disasters that did not happen.”

In Latin America and the Caribbean, ECLAC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and others have documented a clear tendency: natural disasters are on the rise. Even though economic losses have increased, deaths and the number of affected individuals seem to be decreasing. This trend is probably due to the proactive approach to disaster preparedness and early warning developed during the last decade. It also shows the need for improved implementation of disaster resilient communities and disaster prevention measures, to decrease both economic and human losses in the future.

Specific local and regional projects and programs have been developed as a consequence of the promotional work of IDNDR. Major disasters, such as the impact of the El Niño phenomenon in 1997-98 and Hurricanes George and Mitch in the Caribbean and Central America in 1998 have, of course, also contributed to a greater awareness of the need for concerted and integrated risk management approaches in the region. UN organizations and interagency thematic groups are using the incentives and recommendations produced by IDNDR for their action plans for disaster reduction.
The Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), the successor arrangement to IDNDR, will build on the existing, small and cost-effective IDNDR Secretariat in Geneva, with a continuing Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean based in Costa Rica, with the intention of future similar arrangements in Africa and Asia. The text of the ECOSOC resolution 1999/63 (July 1999) requests the following from the Secretary General:

a) to establish, as of January 2000, an inter-agency task-force, with representation from all relevant United Nations bodies and members of the scientific and technical community, including regional representation, to serve as the main forum within the United Nations for continued and concerted emphasis on natural disaster reduction, in particular for defining strategies for international cooperation at all levels in this field, while ensuring complementarily of actions with other agencies;

b) to maintain the existing inter-agency secretariat function for natural disaster reduction as a distinct focal point for the coordination of the work of the task force, to place the inter-agency task force and inter-agency secretariat under the direct authority of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and to finance it from extrabudgetary resources through a specific trust fund.

In his report to the General Assembly on the implementation of the IDNDR successor arrangements in November 1999, Mr. Kofi Annan also states the following:

The Secretary-General therefore appeals to all governments, in particular to governments in position to do so, to increase the level of their support to national, regional and international programmes of disaster reduction and to establish a better balance between their support to national, regional and international programmes of disaster reduction and to establish a better balance between their expenditures for relief activities and prevention activities. It is symptomatic…that the support expected in financial terms from Member States for the institutional arrangements to be set up for implementation of resolution 1999/63 are equivalent to about 10% only of resources expected to be received for disaster response activities. “Prevention Pays”, according to the slogan retained for this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction. This message should be heeded by Governments, by increasing the amount of resources to prevention, including for implementation of the UN-ISDR. [Agenda item 100 (b) Environment and sustainable development: International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction]

The goal – and the hope – is that greater coordination can be achieved between the ever growing number of international, regional and national organizations dedicated to disaster reduction and risk management, through this International Strategy and its institutional arrangements.
We will continue to promote annual campaigns around the World Disaster Reduction Day, which falls on the second Wednesday of October.

We intend to establish a regional inter-agency group for public information and campaigns, in order to have a greater impact with our messages and content about people’s participation in risk reduction and disaster prevention.