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 International Research Centre for the El Niņo Phenomenon (IRCEN), Guayaquil, Ecuador

On 19 September 2001 and just before the inauguration of the XIII session of WMO’s Region III held in Quito, the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) as a framework for the creation of a trust fund for the establishment, operation and development of the International Research Centre for the El Niño Phenomenon (IRCEN or CIIFEN in Spanish) in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The MOC was signed with the presence of the President of the Republic of Ecuador, Ministers and high Officials of the Ecuadorian Government.

The purpose of this MOC is to strengthen collaboration between the Government of Ecuador and the WMO for the initiation of activities related to the creation of the Centre.

This MOC is a follow-up to the feasibility study carried out by Dr James Bruce in 1997 and to various negotiations with the WMO Secretariat and the related decisions of the UN General Assembly on the subject, in the framework of UN-ISDR (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction), previously IDNDR. Through this MOC, a trust fund, with an allocation of US$ 385,000 by the Government of Ecuador, is being established to carry out the counterpart activities that should lead to the full establishment of the Centre.

Within this framework, WMO’s role will be to assist in developing the project document that will include the structure, functions, modalities of operation, functions and required material and financial resources for the Centre. In this connection, WMO is ready to provide a consultant who will design the technical and scientific approach for the preparation of the above mentioned details. External resources will be mobilized for the full study.

The Government of Ecuador has offered to host the International Research Centre for the El Niño/Southern Oscillation Phenomenon, with its headquarters in Guayaquil, with the initial participation of the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (INAMHI), the Oceanographic Institute of the Navy (INOCAR), the National Institute of Fishery (INP), the University of Guayaquil, Higher School of Polytechnics of the Coast and the Catholic University of Santiago de Guayaquil. These national institutions will co-ordinate their inputs through an established National Committee for the Study of El Niño Phenomenon (ENFEN).

The support and participation of all NMHSs (spell out) of the region as well as sub-regional organizations such as the Regional Andean Programme for Risk Reduction and Disaster Prevention (PREANDINO), regrouping the five countries of the Andean sub-region, the South Pacific Permanent Commission (CPPS) and others, is expected.

Additionally, the international centre, to be established under the auspices of WMO and UN/ISDR, is expected to attract the participation of a number of agencies and institutions, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI), the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI), US/NOAA/OGP, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC/UNESCO), Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), Organization of American States (OAS), World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), Andean Development Bank (CAF), Global Environment Facility (GEF), Universities and Research Centres of the five Andean countries and gradually those of other interested countries as well as interested bilateral cooperation agencies such as US/AID and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) among other.

At the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador, and to co-ordinate initial actions, a meeting was held with the participation of INOCAR, CAF, ISDR and WMO, a few days after the MOC was signed.

There was general agreement that the first tasks required to be done related to specify the scope and functions of the proposed centre and the development of a timetable of actions required, leading to its implementation. These would build on the initial feasibility study carried out by WMO in 1999.

Special emphasis was placed on the need for the centre to develop initially a sub-regional scope that would facilitate the gradual development of a larger international dimension, especially if it were to attract adequate funds and the required expertise in several disciplines to ensure a broadly-based institution. The latter would require some international and/or multi-agency advisory structures for the centre, going beyond those laid down in the current Ecuador/WMO Agreement. The PREANDINO Programme could provide a useful framework for this purpose at the sub-regional Andean level, with WMO and UN/ISDR providing the broader international framework.