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: The Role of the University


United Nations Sponsor Creation Of Research Center For Disaster Management At The Del Valle University In Guatemala
Manuel Pinelo, UNDP, Guatemala

On 11 April 2000, Guatemala’s Del Valle University (UVG) and the United Nations signed an agreement to create a Research Center For Disaster Management.

The Dean of the University and the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Guatemala signed the accord as part of the efforts by the United Nations Disaster Management Team (UN -DMT) to improve emergency response in the Central American country.

The agreement seeks to consolidate the installed base of emergency management support for the public and private sectors by facilitating research, professional training, and the provision of disaster reduction and response services to communities at risk, linking the scientific establishment, international cooperation agencies, and public and private policy-makers.

The Research Center for Disaster Management

The Research Center for Disaster Management will be set up at the Del Valle University, which was founded in 1966. Its headquarters will be located on the main campus of the University, which also has two regional campuses, one on the Southern Coast and the other one in the country’s highlands.

The Center’s activities will include the development of plans, projects and programs aimed at reducing social, environmental and institutional vulnerability, strengthening the Guatemalan peace process, and promoting sustainable human development.

In the field of research, the Center seeks to study the country’s natural, social, and technological hazards, their recurrence, location, magnitude and impact, and the most effective ways to reduce vulnerability and risk.

At the undergraduate level, the Center will train technicians who can carry out prevention measures and are qualified to respond rapidly and effectively to emergencies. At the graduate and postgraduate levels, the goal is to train professionals who can incorporate risk analysis in their planning, projects, and programs, regardless of their nature, and are able to design and implement specific projects to reduce social, environmental and institutional vulnerability.

The Center will also provide consultancy services and execute sectoral and regional programs and projects that allow the public and private sectors, at the local and national level, to develop emergency response plans and reduce their vulnerability to natural and manmade disasters.

The Players

The United Nations Disaster Management Team in Guatemala includes representatives of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Program (WFP), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

In the event of a disaster, these organizations coordinate their actions with the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team (UNDAC) of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Emergency Response Division (ERD) of the UNDP. They also make sure that risk management and disaster reduction are taken into account in the planning and implementation of sustainable human development projects.

The Del Valle University has a world-class Research Institute and Geographical Information System, as well as an extensive central library, several specialized libraries, and excellent laboratories and other facilities. It is currently setting up a distance learning program in which a virtual classroom will transmit signals via satellite to strategically located antennae around the country.

The Future

It is hoped that seven months after the signing of the agreement, the organizational, research, teaching, and service plans will be in place, so that the Research Center can get to work. To meet this goal, the University and the United Nations have designated the professionals in charge of these tasks, defined their responsibilities, and provided the logistical and operational support needed. In addition, the United Nations has provided funds to the University to serve as seed capital in order to attract the financial aid of international agencies that may be interested in promoting vulnerability reduction, one of the cornerstones of any successful development initiative.

The Research Center for Disaster Management should contribute significantly to the integration of risk assessment in the design of all development projects, and to disaster mitigation projects by the United Nations and the private and public sectors.

As part of the team entrusted with developing the programs of the Research Center for Disaster Management, I would like to take the opportunity provided by the publication of this article in ISDR Informs to ask readers to send in any information or proposals they think might help in the development of the intended curriculum, or tell us about their experiences in disaster mitigation training, the execution of research plans, and the provision of risk reduction services. We will be grateful for any suggestions that can help us to improve the quality of the Center.

For more information, please contact:
Hugo Romeo Masaya, Secretario General
Universidad del Valle de Guatemala
18 avenida 11-95 zona 15, Vista Hermosa III
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Tel: (502) 364-0336 x 40 Fax: (502) 364-0212