Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter for Latin America and the Caribbean Inssue No. 15, 1999
Reduction: Achievements of a Decade
Claude de Ville de Goyet, Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Coordination
Programme, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
Both risk management and humanitarian assistance have changed dramatically over the past few years. We have left behind the improvised, ad hoc response approach that prevailed during the 1970s, and adopted a preventive approach involving institutional strengthening.
The IDNDR has contributed to legitimizing the issue worldwide by providing a global policy and scientific framework and serving as a neutral forum for partners and agencies. It has also kept our attention focused on natural disasters, during a decade obsessed with complex disasters.
One of the chief achievements of the Decade has been the promotion of an approach based on long-term development and the birth of a culture of prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean. The enormous losses caused by hurricanes, particularly hurricane Mitch in Central America, has raised the awareness of political authorities to such a degree that during the 10th summit of heads of government of Central America, Belize and the Dominican Republic, a five-year plan was approved to promote disaster reduction.
Advances in the health sector to prevent the unnecessary destruction of hospital and water supply and sanitation systems are now the pride of the region and have served as a model for other parts of the world. With the support of PAHO/WHO, much progress has been made in the establishment of a regional scientific and technical framework, and in the creation of a critical mass in every country through alliances, changes of attitude, pilot projects and the attainment of concrete political commitments at the national level.
The Declaration of the Decade expresses the international will to face the risk of natural disasters with a spirit of international cooperation. Sectoral achievements in this field would not have been possible without the harmonious and productive synergy established between the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Regional Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean of the IDNDR Secretariat. Seldom have international agencies collaborated in such a complementary fashion with a common goal of service.
Humanitarian response has also witnessed substantive changes:
A decade, in the history of human society, is negligible. It should come as no surprise that in such a short span, the achievements should be outnumbered by the challenges that remain, new or recycled.
The end of a decade
given over to disaster reduction is a time for celebration but
not for self-congratulation. A culture of prevention entails a collective
attitude that can only be built by means of a long social process. The
Decade has merely launched this process, and identified the many challenges
facing us in the 21st Century. IDNDR has set the stage for its successor,
the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), created by the
UN General Assembly.
The future demands synergy among the agencies of the UN System, regional organizations, and civil society. It is to be hoped that the symbiosis experienced by IDNDR and PAHO will serve as a model for the true integration of all stakeholders with the new Secretariat, in order to develop a human, social, and health-oriented approach to disaster reduction.
For more information,