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 United Nations 2000 Disaster Reduction Campaign
Disaster Reduction, Education And Youth

During the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), the International Day for Disaster Reduction significantly contributed to raising awareness of disaster reduction in countries and local communities around the world. Considering the success of such a Day, when the IDNDR came to an end in December 1999, the General Assembly of the United Nations decided to maintain its annual observance on the second Wednesday of October.

The ISDR Secretariat has chosen to focus the 2000 World Disaster Reduction Campaign on disaster reduction, education and youth. The issue of forest fires will be used as a specific example of the areas in which young people can become actively involved, as they realize that even a small, careless flame in the wrong places can cause significant disasters that affect the environment and hinder sustainable development.

The goal of the campaign is to promote disaster prevention measures in communities at risk and raise awareness among all relevant stakeholders around the world. The campaign also seeks to continue building a culture of prevention, through education channels, so that the youth of today can play an active role in reducing the impact of disasters in the future.

Young people are still at the stage of experimentation, and can learn more easily than adults. Their enthusiasm and idealism can spur action and move it in the right direction. Indeed, they are a key resource in mobilizing their communities. Capitalizing on this force for change calls for young people to work in partnership with adults who encourage their participation and are receptive to their ideas. Through direct participation, young people can also develop a sense of their own responsibilities.

The adverse effect of natural disasters on development is plain. Our options are limited: either we rebuild on the debris of decades of lost efforts, after a disaster has struck and exposed our vulnerability, or we take steps now to mitigate the impact of any future events. This implies the integration of risk analysis into all development projects—their design and implementation—and the need to reduce vulnerability by applying disaster prevention and mitigation measures.

A new culture of disaster and risk prevention is a human product. As such, it will have to be built within the family, in schools, in the work place, and in society in general. All these can be seen as educational contexts, as the “classrooms” of a new, mainstreamed school of mitigation. It makes sense, however, to emphasize schools and universities, as the institutions that prepare our future citizens to assume an active role in society. It is not just a matter of transmitting theoretical knowledge, either: our moral duty is to reduce risks in schools and neighboring communities, to ensure that our children and educators are safe from the devastating consequences of earthquakes, hurricanes, floods—and fires.

The full integration of the education sector in disaster reduction promises widespread and long-lasting results, since no other institution has the potential to influence so many citizens, and future citizens, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, where young people make up the largest segment of the population.

We call on all youth movements and organizations with large numbers of young members—such as the Scouts, the Red Cross, and volunteer firefighters—to join us in responding to this challenge.


The main objectives of the campaign are:
  1. Promote a shift from a mentality of reaction to hazards to one of management of risks
    In many countries around the world, disaster education has been focused only on preparedness.
    Preparedness is understood as short-term actions undertaken to avoid the worst impact of an imminent hazard, such as an earthquake. These actions can be in the form of evacuation plans or the timely usage of an early warning system. In the past ten years, however, we have learnt that disaster reduction is a medium to long-term activity, where the benefits are not immediately tangible, i.e. it consists of actions taken to reduce the vulnerabilities of communities to future disasters. This implies a shift in mentality that can best be achieved through educating our youth to see the links between human behaviour, vulnerability, risk management and sustainable development.
  2. Promote stronger commitment to incorporate disaster reduction in education curricula
    Education and young people are powerful forces for change. Education and educational institutions, such as schools and universities, can modify people’s perceptions and attitudes. The effects can multiply within a community.
  3. Promote greater participation of youth in disaster reduction activities
    Today’s youth are essential resources for community mobilization. In order to take advantage of this energetic force, a call has been made to youth to get them to work along side adults in community efforts. Adults must also play a role in encouraging youth participation and in being receptive to their ideas.


For more information, please contact:

Awareness and Promotion Officer
Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR)
Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Tel: (41 22) 917 90 00,
Fax: (41 22) 917 90 98 / 99, Email:

Or with the Regional Unit for Latin
America and the Caribbean
Tel: (506) 2572141
Fax (506) 2572139
Email ó

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