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

In the Spotlight


HemisphericEDUPLAN: A Pan-American Strategy for Reducing the
Vulnerability of the Education Sector to Disasters

Jesús Ángel Chávez Machado, M.Sc.
Institute for Disaster and Environmental Research (IIDMA)
Trujillo, Peru

Technical Secretariats

General Coordination

Jesus Angel Chávez
National University of Trujillo
Research Institute on Disasters and Environment
Av. Juan Pablo II s/n Cda., Peru
Tel. 051-044-23-3050 ext . 323
Fax: 051-044-25-6629

Nelly Gray de Cerdán
Dept. of Geography
University of Cuyo
5500 Mendoza, Argentina
Tel. 54-261-4940-00 ext. 2211
fax: 54-261-438-0457

Antonio Rodriguez
Min. of Education
Caracas, Venezuela
Fax. (5802)5642477 or

Trinidad and Tobago
Dr. Cassandra Rogers
Dept. of Civil Engineering
University of West Indies
Trinidad y Tobago, W.I.
Fax: 868-645-7691

United States
Dr. Brenda Phillips
Prof. Sociology and Women Studies
Texas Woman’s University
P.O. Box 425557
Denton, TX 76204-5557
Tel. 940-898-2119
Fax: 940-898-2102 ó

If you are interested in hosting a Technical Secretariat, please contact the General Coordination in Trujillo,
Peru, or Stephen Bender,

Reducing the vulnerability to natural disasters of the education sector in the Americas began to be undertaken at the hemispheric level with the organization of two regional conferences in the early 1990s. The Environment and Sustainable Development Unit of the Organization of American States (ESDU/OAS) organized the meetings with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). One was held in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1992, for the countries of Latin America; the other, for the Caribbean, was held in Trinidad and Tobago in 1993.

Also in 1993, the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), with the support of Mexico’s Civil Protection Agency and the National Center for Disaster Prevention, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the OAS, organized a workshop in Tlaxcala, Mexico, to design a promotion strategy and campaign for disaster reduction in hospitals and schools, since the slogan that year for World Disaster Reduction Day was “Disaster prevention in schools and hospitals—it’s also your business!”

Later, the ESDU/OAS, PAHO/WHO, IDNDR and the Department of Humanitarian Affairs, with the support of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), convened the first hemispheric conference on school vulnerability reduction. The meeting, held in Caracas in 1997, laid the foundations for a Hemispheric Action Plan for Reducing the Vulnerability of the Education Sector to Natural Disasters (HemisphericEDUPLAN), which was followed up on the following year by means of a virtual conference.

HemisphericEDUPLAN can be defined as a strategy for reducing the vulnerability to disasters of the education sector in the Americas. It is based on the assumption that it is society as a whole that is responsible for preventing and reducing the effects of natural phenomena that may have a direct and indirect impact on the continuity and quality of education.

It is important to bear in mind that HemisphericEDUPLAN is made possible by the collective effort of institutions, non-governmental organizations, associations and individuals involved with the education sector in member states, who participate voluntarily. Their mission is to ensure that HemisphericEDUPLAN, or the principles that sustain it, be adopted officially by the countries of the Americas. The plan therefore identifies and promotes national, regional and hemispheric mechanisms that can bring this about.

HemisphericEDUPLAN was developed with the central objective of strengthening the creation and implementation of programs for reducing the vulnerability of the education sector to social and natural disasters. Specific objectives include the following:

  • Improving the curricula of primary, secondary, and higher education.
  • Training and educating the public.
  • Improving education facilities.
  • Establishing a concrete calendar for meeting goals.

In order to achieve its objectives, HemisphericEDUPLAN’s work is divided into three main areas:

  1. Academic aspects. The goal is to incorporate into the curricula of all education levels, without exception, knowledge about natural events, vulnerability, risk, preparedness, response and prevention, depending of the vulnerabilities of each country or region.
  2. Public information and awareness-raising. The goal is to develop and promote programs, through public and private institutions, to train communities and the public on the need to integrate risk reduction in their daily lives and all of their development activities.
  3. Physical facilities. The aim is to develop methods and techniques and implement strategies for the management and improvement of education facilities in response to identified risks. Another goal is to change the process of planning, design, and construction, as well as reinforcement, reconstruction, and maintenance, in the interest of making the facilities less vulnerable.

These areas outline the general strategy of the program, since the specific actions contemplated by HemisphericEDUPLAN are derived from them. These areas also make it possible to identify what role must be played by the various stakeholders.

  • Community. It includes all people who have a direct or indirect relationship with the education system and who may have a positive impact on the development of the plan.
  • Government and non-governmental organizations. Those institutions that can generate a process of change and improvement in the education system and everything related to reducing the vulnerability of that system to natural disasters.
  • The private sector. Those institutions and organizations that can help to prevent, mitigate, and reduce the impact of natural events on the education sector through their actions, involving the community to which they belong in order to achieve mutual benefits.

Technical Secretariats have been set up as execution mechanisms for carrying out the necessary activities. A Technical Secretariat is an organism entrusted with coordinating the efforts of the various stakeholders for planning, execution, and evaluation. As the name implies, its main function is to support and facilitate the processes required to achieve the Plan’s objectives.

The following types of Technical Secretariats have been established:

  • A Technical Secretariat for General Coordination. Bearing in mind that HemisphericEDUPLAN spans the continent, this office has been set up to coordinate the Plan’s initiatives at the hemispheric level.
  • Regional Technical Secretariats. They coordinate and support efforts at the regional or subregional level (e.g., the Caribbean, or the Andean region). There is no set limit to these Technical Secretariats, since they can be established, as needed, to deal with the various thematic areas of the Plan in the various regions.
  • Special Technical Secretariats. These are Technical Secretariats with a specific objective, of limited duration, that will disappear once the objective has been achieved. It is important to bear in mind that, like the Regional Technical Secretariats, their chief role is to channel the resources and efforts required to attain the Plan’s mission.


The Roles of Technical Secretariats for the EDUPLANhemisférico

Brenda Phillips, Texas Woman’s University
Stephen Bender, Organization of American States, Unit for Sustainable
Development and Environment

Historically, the education sector has been marginalized in disaster reduction efforts. Yet educational institutions represent an important part of communities and their interaction with natural hazards, emergency preparedness and disaster relief. Traditionally, schools have been used in a post-disaster effort such as locations for shelters, response and recovery coordination centers, and information dissemination points.

The EDUPLANhemisférico offers a three-pronged focus for mitigation activities, centered on physical infrastructure, citizen participation and academic aspects (

EDUPLANhemisférico is implemented through local, national and regional activities supported by Technical Secretariats, partnering a wide variety of agencies, organizations and educators in collaborative efforts to reduce vulnerability. The participation of the Technical Secretariats is voluntary. Technical Secretariats use EDUPLANhemisférico as a guide for engaging and committing all components of the education sector—public and private, as well as at all educational levels from faculty through administrative and operational ranks, in efforts that reduce vulnerabilities, an objective of the sector’s development.

Technical Secretariats operate at the community-level, such as a single school, an educational level, an administrative level, or a geographic level. They operate within an institution or across cultures and nations in collaborative partnerships. Their actions start locally but offer national, regional and hemispheric impact. They work to develop programs, encourage citizen participation in making schools safer, and link with experts focusing on the physical infrastructure. To insure their success, technical and financial support from OAS, ISDR, and others enables actions by hosting hemispheric and regional policy and strategic action forums, and creating a dialogue with development finance and cooperation institutions.

The idea for a Technical Secretariat is one based on a regional or technical theme and/or special event coordination. It is not self-appointed representation, but is institutionally or organizationally based. The EDUPLANhemisférico framework allows Technical Secretariats to be responsive to local, regional and national needs, and it gives the Technical Secretariat individual autonomy while working within a hemispheric network.

The education sector is “buying in” to the EDUPLANhemisférico and a network of collaborators is spreading across the Americas and the Caribbean. Hopefully, a group of institutions, each a Technical Secretariat, will combine their experiences, talents, and resources to prepare special events, promote one or more of the EDUPLANhemisférico thematic areas, and create and/or strengthen networks in their geographical areas.
The long work of establishing an initial hemispheric plan across cultures and nations has been accomplished. As of May 2000, five Technical Secretariats have been established (see box).

The role of the Technical Secretariats is one of leadership by example, such as supporting others by organizing and sharing resources, presenting and coordinating a coherent, action-oriented and successful approach to disaster reduction, linking persons and agencies in collaborative efforts, securing funds for mitigation strategies, and developing educational and training programs from the elementary through post-graduate levels.
The first effort to fund a major activity for the EDUPLANhemisférico has resulted from a collaboration between the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and Texas Woman’s University. Their cross-national collaboration to co-author a grant proposal that reduces disasters through cross-national education represents an effort to work in two thematic areas, namely citizen participation and academic aspects.

The role of Technical Secretariats is open to all interested institutions in the public and private sectors committed to disaster reduction of the educational sector. Of particular importance is the participation of networks of community-based NGOs, professional associations, technical associations, and development assistance institutions.