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



New Approaches for Risk Management
Ms. Gloria Bratschi,
 Social Communicator, Prevention and Planning Specialist
Consultant, Mendoza- Argentina

The time to restate some institutional roles for disaster prevention and mitigation has come. Without implying that this date represents a rigid line of “before” and “after”, September 2001 allowed for the emergence of an abrupt signal that warned us about the need to redefine our thoughts. This changing process -which was evident long before this date, inexorably involves those organizations related to life protection.

Along these lines, there exists the need to redefine the functioning of Emergency Management Units, as well as Commissions or Committees for Risk Prevention and Civil Defense or Protection. In other words, we must change their organizational culture, since a new risk management approach is being developed. What was once based on governmental management must now include new actors from different fields. Ineludibly, communities and peoples, and their will, ideas and creativity, as well as their hope, must be incorporated into this process.

Natural phenomena, technological hazards and a number of actions resulting from both nature and human behavior must be managed differently, engaging the population in a more direct manner. There exists an updated range of threats, which embryonic stage has run its course and now they are being introduced to society in a very cruel, almost sadistic manner. Communities must participate in the management of these hazards of anthropic nature and, by doing so, they must bring down old charts and discontinue previous work and management schemes. Currently, the population demands “security”, but security is just a term that emerges from prevention.

The aforementioned bodies must incorporate representatives from other institutions, NGOs, universities, foundations, research centers, neighbor associations, rescue and emergency networks, among others, but particularly formal education and broadcasting means.

Integration is the task to be carried out. It is not that relevant to know how many self-proclaimed “power” levels there exist, which, by the way, have contributed to increasing bureaucracy among these bodies. Currently, important levels must be related to decision-making, energy, horizontal and team-oriented processes and projects. In other words, these levels do not include those hierarchies that often hinder our perceptions. This, however, does not mean that operational leadership has been eliminated, but this type of management represents neither “stardom” nor a new means to centralize power. We are now referring to more humanitarian organizations in the context of a new world, which focuses more in people than in objects.

This may be titled Risk Management Democratization, which will allow for the inclusion of all sectors of society towards a consensual goal. Consensus will be reached only through dynamic management. New settings have emerged, in which we must implement tactics and strategies aimed at minimizing the conse-quences of new technological hazards.

There exists a number of plans, programs and projects waiting for implementation, while some others have not produced positive outcomes. What is important to highlight is the fact that, in the context of these new conditions that threaten humanity, it is essential that every preventive action be supported by the commitment of the inhabitants of every region. The population at large must participate in this projects, jointly with those in charge of guiding them, in order to optimize prevention-mitigation processes.

We must start from the fact that “we all are part of prevention”. We must not wait for organization or public officials to repeatedly tell us how to protect our houses from possible floods or any other threats or hazards. Motivation, education and stimulus will allow for raising awareness of such risks and how to reduce them. This will be possible by starting a bottom-up mainstreaming process and by being appropriately assisted and informed. All this will enable us to contribute with our ideas, creativity and new approaches. Community participation will not be effective if organizations related to risk prevention and emergency management do not oversee the following components in an appropriate manner :

• Mission and vision
• Values
• Identity
• Culture
• Internal and external communications
• Inter-institutional relations
• Relations with the community
• Relations with the media

In order to work harder and reduce our vulnerability towards disasters, our institutions must review the functioning of all these components and, as stated before, foster a real cultural-organizational change. Currently, each government body, enterprise or NGO must ask themselves how to make progress. We must find a way to address the lack or deficiency of preventive planning.

New attitudes must come from the grassroots and from people themselves, that is, from the need of not being considered a “number” or “a percentage”, part of a “target group”, the “market” or “public opinion”, or the “consumer”, the “user”, or the “client” among other similar designations. In the face of new technological threats, something new is being developed: a new way of seeing and implementing Risk Management.

By working together, beyond any difference that may exist, we will celebrate life, especially in a moment when the entire humankind has been profoundly hurt and needs to see the light and hold to their aspirations. Hopefully, we will be able to contribute with all our strength to this change, individually, in our own regions and at our work places, but thinking in plural, thinking of “us”.