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


Second Meeting of the Inter-Agency
Task Force for Disaster Reduction
Geneva, 10-11 October 2000

Major functions of the IATF:

The Secretary General’s report on the Successor Arrangements for the International Decade for Natural Disaster (A/54/497), identified the major functions of the Inter-Agency Task Force as follows:

  • To serve as the main forum within the United Nations system for devising strategies and policies for the reduction of natural hazards;
  • To identify gaps in disaster reduction policies and programmes and recommend remedial action;
  • To ensure complementarity of action by agencies involved in disaster reduction;
  • To provide policy guidance to the secretariat; and,
  • To convene ad hoc meetings of experts on issues related to disaster reduction.

The Second Meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Disaster Reduction was held in Geneva, 10-11 October, 2000, and chaired by Ms. Carolyn McAskie, Deputy to the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. Mr. Denis Benn, Director of the ISDR Secretariat a.i., served as Secretary of the meeting.

In her opening remarks, Ms. McAskie noted that the first meeting of the Task Force, held in April 2000 (see ISDR Informs No. 1), had sent a clear message regarding the approach it felt should be adopted for the implementation of the Strategy. Changes had since been made in the ISDR Secretariat, and in the orientation of its work. She emphasized that there still is a clear need to distinguish between disaster reduction and disaster response. Disaster reduction, the work of ISDR, needs to be viewed within the context of sustainable development. For that reason, even though it reported to the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, the ISDR Secretariat is distinct and autonomous, and must continue to be so. The Task Force is also unique, in that it represented a rare partnership between United Nations bodies, regional groupings and civil society organizations – all supported by national Governments.

The Chair emphasized that it was the role of the Task Force to contribute to the elaboration of the global agenda in disaster prevention, while much of that substantive agenda would be advanced by the Task Force Working Groups. The ISDR Secretariat would be non-operational, but would have to retain the substantive competencies required to carry out the functions assigned to it by ECOSOC, the General Assembly and the Task Force. She noted that the Secretariat had benefited from the secondment by WMO of a senior officer, and asked other Task Force members to consider similar arrangements, so that it could become a truly Inter-Agency Secretariat, as called for in General Assembly resolution 54/219.

In his opening remarks, the Director of the ISDR Secretariat a.i. stated that, in carrying out its activities, the Secretariat would not duplicate the work of the various United Nations organizations and agencies, but that it would seek to promote multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary initiatives in the area of disaster reduction which would complement the work of the stakeholders in the ISDR community. He also pledged that the Secretariat would work in close collaboration with members of the Task Force and other relevant actors in seeking to promote the objectives of disaster reduction. He referred to the draft Framework for Action for the Implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, which he saw as a ‘living document’, not for formal adoption, but for progressive elaboration in consultation with members of the Task Force. Mr. Benn noted that three ‘focus papers’, requested by the Task Force at its first meeting, had been prepared by the Secretariat. These dealt with the Application of Science and Technology in Disaster Prevention, Mainstreaming Disaster Reduction in Sustainable Development and National Planning, as well as Capacity Building for Disaster Reduction in Developing Countries. He also referred to two additional papers prepared by the Secretariat, on Policies and Legislation Trends in Disaster Prevention, and on Awareness Raising and Public Information.

In introducing the papers later, Mr. Benn pointed to the increased recognition being given to the importance of the application of science and technology to disaster reduction. He also stated that the mainstreaming of disaster reduction in sustainable development and national planning processes was important in order to ensure that greater priority was given to the issue. In addition, he pointed to the critical importance of developing capacity at the individual, institutional and systemic levels to deal with disaster reduction.

With organizations-
membership of IATF


  • Ms. Carolyn McAskie, Chairperson, Deputy to the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator a.i.
  • Mr. Denis Benn, Secretary, Director a.i., Secretariat for ISDR


  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  • United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO)
  • International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
  • World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)
  • World Food Programme (WFP)
  • International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)/ World Bank (WB)


  • Council of Europe
  • Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC)
  • Organization of African Unity (OAU)
  • OAS/Inter American Committee for Natural Disaster Reduction
  • South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC)
  • CIS Interstate Council


  • Director General, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN),
  • Director, Disaster Preparedness Dpt, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, (IFRC) Geneva, Switzerland
  • Chair, Committee on Disaster Reduction, International Council for Science (ICSU)
  • Director General, International Civil Defense Organizations (ICDO)
  • Drought Monitoring Centre (DMC), Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Munich Reinsurance Company, Munich, Germany
  • Disaster Prevention Bureau, National Land Agency of Japan, Tokyo

Elaboration of a Framework for Action for the Implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction:

The Task Force engaged in a wide-ranging and constructive exchange of views on a draft Framework document, as a reflection of the essential elements of the Strategy, and as a basis for the ongoing elaboration of the Strategy by the Task Force.

It was suggested that;

  • disaster resilient communities and the reduction of social and economic losses would need to be recast as the over-arching goal of the Strategy,
  • the link between the activities of the Task Force and the Secretariat and the needs of disaster prone communities would need to be emphasized,
  • regional aspects of disaster reduction and the role of countries and national committees in advancing the Strategy would need to be highlighted.

While discussing the Focus papers, there was consensus that the Task Force, the Working Groups and the Secretariat should seek to identify ways in which existing capacities in science and technology could be brought downstream to those who needed them. It was also pointed out that all activities in the field of disaster reduction should include an element of capacity building, which should not be treated separately.

It was decided that the next Task Force meeting should take place by April 2001. Overall, the positive approach of the Task Force members and their determination to move forward together to implement the Strategy were noted and appreciated by all, including many of the observers. As a matter of fact, 57 observers among country representatives and organizations assisted the meeting, including many of the countries from the Region of Latin America and the Caribbean and the Ibero-American Association for Civil Protection.

The Task Force members were thanked for their constructive suggestions, which, as indicated by the Chair, represented an important contribution to the on-going process of refining the Strategy and the process by which it would be implemented.

Moving forward….

On substantive issues, Task Force members discussed the work of the three established working groups, new and additional areas of concerns, such as wildfire prevention (a new Working Group to be lead by IUCN was agreed), legislation and disaster reduction, as well as the need for a more defined involvement of countries in the work to achieve the goals of ISDR.

The three Working Groups established at the first Task Force meeting (on El Niño, climate change and variability; Early Warning; and Quantification of risk, vulnerability and impact of disasters) presented progress reports on their work. The discussion concluded as follows:

Working Group 1
Disaster reduction activities in the field of El Nino, climate change and variability

The representative of WMO, as Chair of Working Group 1, presented a review of work undertaken so far, noting that there was considerable inter-agency work already underway that had been initiated or supported by the Working Group’s predecessor, the Inter-Agency Task Force on El Niño. It was noted further that the Inter-agency Committee on Sustainable Development, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Climate Agenda were additional and ongoing contexts in which Working Group 1 would need to consider its specific contributions to issues related to climate and disasters.

It was agreed that the Group would need to identify at an early stage the particular niche or niches on which it would work, such as to formulate plans on ways that information already existing in the scientific and technical community could be made more readily available and useable for national governments and vulnerable communities.

Working Group 2
Early Warning:

The representative of UNEP, as Chair of Working Group 2, presented a review of the efforts to establish the Group, which had not yet met.

The Task Force affirmed the need for Working Group 2 to develop a relatively narrow – and useable – definition of early warning; to make an inventory of early warning activities already undertaken in the United Nations system and, if possible, beyond the United Nations system; and to assess these activities with a view to identifying gaps that need to be filled by further work within the United Nations system and beyond it. There was agreement that the Working Group would also need to identify ways to make early warning tools useful to disaster-prone communities in developing countries.

Working Group 3
Quantification of risk, vulnerability and impact of disasters:

The representative of UNDP, as Chair of Working Group 3, presented a review of the work of the Group, which had undertaken preparatory work and had embarked on a substantive programme.

It was affirmed that the focus of Working Group 3 should be on the social aspects of quantifying disaster risk, vulnerability and impact, as the World Bank was already engaged in efforts to quantify the economic aspects of these issues. It was suggested that, at the beginning, the Group should concentrate its efforts on major cities at risk, in particular on a number of “hot spots”.

The possibility of developing a ‘World Disaster Vulnerability Report’ within the context of Working Group 3 was received positively.

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