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

Partners in Action


The Global Earthquake Safety Initiative (GESI)
Carlos A. Villacís, GeoHazards International,
Tel (1 650) 614-9050 Fax (1 650) 614-9051

As the world economy grows, urban areas are rapidly increasing in size, especially in developing nations. These cities are in a unique position to make decisions that can greatly affect their vulnerability to future risk from natural disasters. To implement successful development plans and ensure sustainability of the development process, cities must be able to assess their risk from natural disasters, predict future risk patterns with and without mitigation efforts, and track the long-term success of efforts that have been undertaken. The Global Earthquake Safety Initiative (GESI) was developed to meet these needs, offering cities access to information that is necessary to begin the process of addressing urban earthquake safety.

In January 2000, GeoHazards International (GHI) and the Disaster Management Planning Office of the United Nations’ Center for Regional Development (UNCRD) started the Global Earthquake Safety Initiative (GESI) to develop a mechanism to promote earthquake risk management in developing countries. This mechanism, a methodology to measure relative urban earthquake risk, would promote risk management in cities of developing nations by raising awareness, both locally and internationally, of their earthquake risk and by suggesting possible measures to reduce that risk. Information provided by GESI should assist community leaders and decision makers in measuring trends in risk over time, identifying effective risk mitigation options, and understanding what has or has not worked in similar cities.

The first phase of the GESI project had the participation of twenty-one cities from around the world in its eighteen-month duration.

Objectives of GESI
The Initiative had four main objectives:

  1. To develop a means to express urban earthquake risk in lay terms,
  2. To measure trends in the urban earthquake risk of the world’s major cities,
  3. To produce a tool to evaluate the effectiveness of various means of reducing earthquake casualties, and
  4. To highlight the increasing earthquake risk of schools in developing countries and the potential for reducing that risk.

Additionally, GESI wanted to promote local involvement in risk management. The project was community-based, as the participants were local specialists from diverse organizations, including government agencies, universities, non-governmental organizations and private companies. They were responsible for collecting the data and participating on a local advisory committee that gave advice on how the project results could be used most effectively in their city.
Participating cities

The cities participating in the first stage of GESI were:

  • The Americas: Antofagasta and Santiago, Chile; Guayaquil and Quito, Ecuador; Mexicali and Tijuana, Mexico; San Salvador, El Salvador; Vancouver, Canada
  • Asia: Bandung and Jakarta, Indonesia; Islamabad, Pakistan; Kathmandu, Nepal; Kobe, Nagoya, and Tokyo, Japan; Manila, Philippines; Mumbai and New Delhi, India; Tashkent, Uzbekistan
  • Europe: Istanbul and Izmir, Turkey

Fig. 1 Effectiveness of several mitigation actions that
could be taken by the city of San Salvador

The Regional Evaluation Workshops

Two regional workshops were held to evaluate the first phase of GESI, determine the usefulness of the project, and solicit recommendations on how the initiative should be continued in the future. Representatives from participating cities, international organizations and international technical experts were invited and asked to evaluate the project in working group discussion sessions. The fist regional symposium was held in Kobe, Japan, for the Asian and European cities participating in GESI, and the second one was held in Quito, Ecuador, for the Latin American cities.

Final remarks

The evaluation of the first phase of GESI seems to indicate that the methodology is successful in being an inexpensive and rapid assessment that produces valid and reasonable results. Representatives of the participating cities indicated that the implementation of GESI contributed to an increased awareness of the existing risk, generated interaction among the local institutions, and promoted coordination of risk management activities and programs. For the continuation of GESI, the inclusion of more cities in the study has been suggested as well as the periodic repetition of the project in order to monitor progress.