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

Global ISDR


First Meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for Disaster Reduction

Tegucigalpa, Honduras. After Hurricane Mitch in November, 1998.

The Inter-agency Task Force for Disaster Reduction convened for its first meeting in Geneva, at the Palais des Nations, on 27-28 April 2000. It was chaired by Carolyn McAskie, Deputy to the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, who is also the Emergency Relief Coordinator a.i.

The meeting confirmed the increasing importance of disaster reduction and emphasized that the scope of this field of activity goes beyond the UN system as reflected by the composite membership of the Task Force itself.

The Task Force is composed of UN Agencies such as:

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  • The United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO).
  • The International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).
  • The World Food Programme.
  • The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, part of the World Bank).

The Force also includes regional entities such as:

  • The Council of Europe.
  • The Asian Disaster Prevention Center (ADPC).
  • The Organization of African Unity (OAU).
  • SOPAC.
  • The CIS Interstate Council.

Civil society and non-governmental organizations, government agencies and the private sector are also represented, as in the following cases:

  • The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
  • The International Council for Science.
  • The National Director of Meteorology of the Ministry of Defense. Uruguay.
  • The International Civil Defense Organization (ICDO).
  • The Drought Monitoring Centre. Zimbabwe.
  • Munich Reinsurance Company.
  • The National Land Agency of Japan.

The Director of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) is the Secretary of the Task Force.

The meeting took note of the respective roles and mandate of the Task Force and the ISDR Secretariat, as elaborated in UN Secretary General’s report A/54/497. There was general agreement that the basic organizational structure of ISDR included:

  • The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction—the Strategy for a Safer World in the 21st Century, as adopted at the IDNDR Programme Forum and endorsed by the General Assembly.
  • The ISDR Secretariat.
  • The Inter-Agency Task Force for Disaster Reduction.
  • National committees, focal points or platforms maintained or created by national authorities to motivate the maximum possible involvement of governmental, professional, and civil society participants engaged in hazard and risk management for disaster reduction (see outline for guidelines).
  • The entire range of international, regional, national and local authorities and professional interests both within and outside the UN system that would be engaged in the implementation of policies, programs and activities leading to the fulfillment of the Strategy’s objectives.

Members indicated that the Task Force should be regarded as an interdisciplinary forum for advancing disaster reduction, identifying areas of common concern, and devising guidelines for the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. The members of the Task Force, working through the organizations that they represent and their respective operational partners, assume a primary commitment to implement the Strategy. It was recognized that membership in the Task Force was rotational and that other entities should be associated with the work of the Task Force.

The ISDR Secretariat has mandated functions with relation to the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, the Task Force and the network of National Committees. It also has specific responsibilities, mandated by the General Assembly, with regard to the issue of El Niño and early warning. In addition, the Task Force identified the following areas as appropriate for the ISDR Secretariat:

  • Provide a venue and foster partnerships
  • Serve as a clearing house
  • Raise awareness; engage in public information activities; in particular, advocate for the mainstreaming of disaster prevention in sustainable development
  • Craft the UN message on disaster reduction
  • Foster assessments of national practices and stocktaking
  • Provide advice on legislation


There was general convergence on the fact that the achievements of IDNDR should now be taken to another level, by translating past experience into helping or encouraging countries to build disaster resilient communities. Since disaster reduction is a field in which no institution or organization has a universal mandate, the role of the Task Force is to promote the coordinated implementation of the Strategy in a cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary way.

The meeting identified the following priority areas for the future work of the Task Force:

  • Early warning
  • El Niño and La Niña phenomena; climate variability and change
  • Ecosystems management; land use management and planning; unplanned urban areas; megacities and secondary cities
  • Advocacy; information, education and training for public awareness and commitment; raising political will and the profile of prevention
  • Social and health impact of disasters
  • Capacity building in developing countries
  • Mainstreaming disaster reduction in sustainable development and in national planning; lessons learned for prevention from actual disasters
  • Private and public sector partnerships
  • Technological disasters
  • Quantification of impact of disasters as justification for up-front economic investment in prevention (particularly in relation to sustainable development); insurability; measuring the economic and environmental cost of disasters; risk and vulnerability assessment; vulnerability indicators
  • The application of science and technology in disaster prevention

The Task Force also discussed regional approaches and mechanisms. There was wide recognition of the importance of working at the regional level through partners or by utilizing existing regional mechanisms. In this context the ISDR Office for Latin America and the Caribbean was referred to as a successful model for the exchange of information and experiences in the region.

The Task Force also agreed to establish three Sub-groups: on El Niño and La Niña (leader: WMO); on early warning and vulnerability indicators (leader to be defined); and on the quantification of the impact of future disasters as justification for up-front economic investment in prevention (particularly in relation to sustainable development), as well as insurability and measuring the economic and environmental cost of disasters (leader: UNDP).

The Secretariat was requested to carry out a preliminary assessment of whether subgroups would be needed in the following areas: how to mainstream disaster reduction within sustainable development; science and technology, including information technology and telecommunications; and capacity building in developing countries.

The Task Force asked the Secretariat to work towards the establishment and strengthening of the network of national committees for ISDR which is forming up based on the success of the former IDNDR network.

The Task Force will hold its next formal meetings on 11-12 October 2000, in conjunction with the International Disaster Reduction Day and then in March 2001.

For further information, please contact
the ISDR Secretariat (
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