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


Road from Rio to Johannesburg: Disaster Reduction and World Summit on Sustainable Development

Can sustainable development, along with the international strategies and instruments aiming at poverty reduction and environmental protection, be successful without taking into account the risk of natural hazards and their impacts? Can the planet afford the increasing costs and losses due to so-called natural disasters? The short answer is: No!


The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 26 August – 7 September 2002 - 10 years after the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). More than 50.000 participants are expected to join the Summit and all its side events and multi-stakeholder activities. The principal outputs of the Earth Summit were the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, a 40-chapter programme of action on environment and development, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Statement of Principles on Forests.

Although the topic of disaster reduction was present in several chapters of Agenda 21, it was not articulated as an imperative for sustainable development. In the current review and action programme being negotiated for Johannesburg, this is one of the new areas of concerns, as requested by governments during the regional consultations and preparatory committee meetings.

Preparatory Process for the World Summit on Sustainable Development

A myriad of preparatory meetings and conferences have been held over the past several months. After several regional roundtables, the Latin American and the Caribbean Regional Conference for the WSSD was held in Rio de Janeiro from October 23-24, 2001. At the end of the meeting, the delegates adopted the “Rio de Janeiro Platform for Action towards Johannesburg 2002”, which highlighted the importance of reducing the vulnerability to natural hazards, based on land use planning, with strong ecological and economic foundations. Furthermore, it promoted the participation of civil society as well as the culture of prevention, through education, public information and effective early warning systems.
Four Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), have been held between the end of 2001 and June 2002; it is the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) that serves as PrepCom, coupled with a multi stakeholder dialogue and wide participation of civil society groups. The second and third PrepComs were held in New York and dealt with achievements and level of implementation of Agenda 21, as well as shortcomings and priority areas to take into consideration for the future implementation commitments. Agenda 21 will not be re-negotiated or changed. WSSD in Johannesburg is expected to identify additional areas of priority and a plan for implementation of the Agenda.

The second PrepCom resulted in a “Chairman’s paper”, where all major areas of priority and action discussed in plenary and working groups were collected. This was the paper that was negotiated in depth at the fourth PrepCom, held in Bali, Indonesia, 25 May – 7 June 2002.

The topic of natural disasters and disaster reduction was reflected already as an emerging trend to be considered in the UN Secretary General’s Report on the Implementation of Agenda 21 (E/CN.17/2002/PC.2/7), presented and discussed at the second PrepCom. Delegates at PrepCom II suggested several actions for further implementation related to disaster reduction. These suggestions were developed further under the negotiations in the following two PrepComs. The subject is dealt with under the issue of ‘Protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development’, touched upon under “Poverty eradication” for adequate and secure housing for the poor and under “Means of implementation” as information for decision-makers. The section on Small Island Development States, as well as the one for Africa, also includes special concerns and action points related to increased capacities to cope with disasters.

The focus of activities are based on “An integrated, multi-hazard, inclusive approach to address vulnerability, risk assessment and disaster management, including prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery, is an essential element of a safer world in the 21st century.”

Actions, which are required at all levels, mentioned in the current draft include among others:

  • Strengthening the role of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and encourage the international community to provide the necessary financial resources to its Trust Fund;
  • Establishment of effective regional, sub-regional and national strategies and scientific and technical institutional support for disaster management, including institutional capacities of countries and international joint observation and research;
  • Wetland and watershed protection and restoration, improved land-use planning, improving and applying more widely techniques and methodologies for assessing the potential adverse effects of climate change and, as appropriate, assisting
  • Dissemination and use of traditional and indigenous knowledge to mitigate the impact of disasters, and promote community-based disaster management planning by local authorities, including through training activities and raising public awareness. Support the on-going voluntary contribution of, as appropriate, NGOs, the scientific community, and other partners in the management of natural disasters according to agreed, relevant guidelines;
  • Development and strengthening of early warning systems and information networks in disaster management, consistent with the ISDR;
  • Strenghening of capacity at all levels to collect and disseminate scientific and technical information, including the improvement of early warning systems for prediction of extreme weather events, especially El Niño/La Niña, through the provisions of assistance to institutions devoted to addressing such events, including the International Centre for the Study of the El Niño Phenomenon.

The expected outcomes of WSSD are three:

So-called “type 1 outcomes” are:

  • One political statement or declaration by Heads of States;
  • One negotiated and agreed Plan of Implementation; and

So-called “Type 2 Outcome”:

  • Partnerships involving some or many partners, including governments, regional organizations, civil society and UN organizations. They should be international, regional or sub-regional in scope and refer to specific areas of implementation related to the Type 1 outcome.

Several partnerships are being developed at present time related to the implementation of disaster reduction, as mentioned in the draft plan of implementation.

Throughout the WSSD preparatory process, the disaster reduction community needs to strengthen the disaster risk reduction component of sustainable development through the establishment and strengthening of active partnerships and initiatives in accordance with the objectives of the ISDR.

Legacy of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)

Losses from natural disasters will continue to increase if we do not shift towards proactive solutions. Disaster reduction is both an issue for consideration in the sustainable development agenda and a crosscutting issue relating to the social, economic, environmental and humanitarian sectors. Building on the legacy of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (1990-1999) and the Action Plan adopted at the First World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction, held in Yokohama, 1994, the World Summit on Sustainable Development will constitute another milestone that brings the issue into development agenda as part of economic, social, environmental, as well as humanitarian concerns. Disaster reduction should be part of the Johannesburg legacy and Programme for Action, in order to further the goals and partnerships of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

Follow-up to Johannesburg – linking to Yokohama review

The outcome of WSSD in relation to the subject of disaster reduction will also serve as a basis for the upcoming ten-year review of the Yokohama Action Plan for a Safer World, adopted at the First World Conference on Disaster reduction in 1994. A participatory review and formulation process at national, regional and global levels should start in 2003.

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Background Paper for WSSD and Online Debate

An official background paper No. 5. Natural Disasters and Sustainable Development: understanding the links between development, environment and natural disasters (, was presented to PrepComII in January. The paper was compiled by the ISDR Secretariat in collaboration with experts, practitioners, many UN agencies, among them UNDP, UNEP, UN/Habitat, WMO, UN/DESA and UN/OCHA. The current version has been revised based on contributions from 350 participants from 80 countries who participated in an online debate, organized during the period of 15 April-9 May, by the Stakeholders Forum for our Common Future and the ISDR Secretariat. This debate focused on risk assessment, education, community action and early warning and developed future ideas on the recommendations for the course of action, implementation and future commitments.

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