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



Living with Risk: Turning the tide of disasters towards sustainable development

As the topic of this year’s World Disaster Reduction campaign suggests, by integrating disaster reduction measures into long-term sustainable development planning, people’s lives of today and tomorrow will have a greater chance to function without being disrupted or compromised by disasters.

In keeping with the International Year of Freshwater, ISDR’s 2003 World Disaster Reduction Campaign looks at how we can cope with water-related hazards. A general trend is that floods, droughts, hurricanes are on the rise, affecting more communities than ever due to human activities that increase vulnerability and alter the natural balance of ecosystems.

Earlier this year, the city of Santa Fe in Argentina was hit by particularly devastating floods, affecting thousands of people and economic assets. At a time in which technology is available to monitor extreme weather events, assess their potential impacts and issue warnings, we must ask ourselves whether such disaster should still occur so frequently.

Over the last decade, we have experienced an exponential increase in the number of extreme events, accompanied by an increase in the number of people affected. Other trends are equally worrying such as demographic growth, population displacements due to poverty and conflicts, as well as environmental degradation that will increase further the impact of disasters. On top of this, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that due to our changing climate extreme events will become more frequent and more devastating.

The social, economic and human impacts of these disasters is setting back the effective development of many countries and points to the need for immediate action to address some of the root causes behind these trends.

Luckily, there are also some positive developments. For example, thanks to the progress in meteorological and hydrological services, we are now capable of predicting the location of landfall of tropical cyclone and tornadoes many hours and even days in advance with increasing accuracy. In some instances, warnings of droughts can be now issued several months in advance.

In addition to these technical advances, governments have strengthened their capacity to deliver this vital information to the communities vulnerable to disasters, based on risk and vulnerability analysis, carried out on a regular basis. And finally, we have learned through experience that a community that is aware of its risk in advance is more likely to take appropriate action in the face of danger, and it will also be more likely to ensure that its vulnerability be reduced before disasters strike.

Where do we go from here?

ISDR Secretariat, in collaboration with many partner organizations, is currently engaged in the ten-year review of disaster reduction activities since the first World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction, which took place in Yokohama, Japan in 1994.

The overall objective of the Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction is to increase the commitment for implementation of disaster risk reduction at all levels and in particular its integration into development planning processes. One of the purposes of the review is to identify concrete ways to incorporate disaster risk reduction into poverty reduction, de velopment and environmental strategies. It is also expected that this review will provide substantive justification for renewing and elevating political commitment towards disaster risk reduction, and will motivate greater involvement of governments and communities. The review process will culminate in the Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR-2), to be held in Kobe, Hyogo, on January 18-22, 2005.

Some of the expected outcomes of the global review process and the Second World Conference include the following:
• Stronger political commitment to promote effective
implementation of disaster reduction at all levels.
• An agreed set of principles and framework for disaster risk
• A programme of action 2005-2015 to coincide with the
Millennium Development Goals and the outcome of the WSSD

The review process and the Second World Conference will take into account the following relevant processes:

• The Millenium Development Goals
• The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (WSD, 2002)
• The ten-year review and preparation of the follow-up actions to the Barbados Plan of Action for Small Island Developing States
•Launching of the International Decade for Education on Sustainable Development 2005-2015

The preparatory process of this 10-year review will include several thematic and regional consultations and meetings in order to measure achievements since the adoption of the Yokohama Strategy (1994), as well as to define the remaining gaps, needs and opportunities in disaster reduction, and make specific recommendations for the future.

At the regional level, the Hemispheric consultation on Early Warning, which took place in Antigua, Guatemala, 3-5 June, was the first thematic event that contributed to this process. The consultation gathered 85 participants, including experts in early warning, public authorities, sub-regional, regional and international organizations, NGO’s community leaders, and media representatives from 19 countries of the hemisphere.(for more information see page 27). The consultation provided the first opportunity to link scientific/technical personnel with social actors, such as local authorities and personnel from civil defense or civil protection agencies from all regions of the hemisphere. The results of the consultation will be presented at the forthcoming International Conference on Early Warning, which will take place in Bonn, Germany, in October 2003.

In the field of hospital mitigation, PAHO/WHO, in collaboration with the World Bank, DFID, OFDA, GTZ and ISDR, recently organized an international workshop entitled “Hospitals in Disasters: Handle with Care”. The workshop took place in El Salvador on July 8-10. The objectives of this meeting, which also contributed to the 10-year Yokohama review process, were o revise and validate guidelines and recommendations in the field of hospital mitigation.

Other regional and thematic meetings are planned for later this year and for the year 2004. These include also the Forum “Mitch +5”, scheduled to take place in late 2003, and planned by various regional and national actors, including CEPREDENAC, UNDP and CARE, among others. Mitch +5 aims at providing an opportunity for reviewing and evaluating what has occurred in the context of disaster reduction since the hurricane hit Central America, assessing whether the level of vulnerability to natural disasters that existed five years ago has increased since then or has been reduced. The event will also provide an opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned from the Mitch experience and consider the direction that disaster reduction in the region is taking towards the future.

Why Kobe, Hyogo?

On January 17 1995, the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake damaged the Kobe area and caused thousands of casualties. It became the first major earthquake in recent history that occurred in a large city (Kobe has 1.5 million population) of a developed country. After a decade, the city of Kobe, as well as the Hyogo Prefecture, will commemorate this event in January 2005. This timing suits for world partners to meet, exchange ideas and experiences, and build strategies for effective solutions to disaster risk reduction and management in the 21st century, and it coincides with the finalization of the ten-year review of the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action.

Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, geological hazards are eminent in Japan. Also, Japan’s location in the mid-latitude (on the east side of the continent) allows cold Siberian air masses to dump heavy snow in the northern parts in the winter. Warm Pacific air masses, frequently accompanied by tropical storms or typhoons approaching from the south, cause hydrological hazards in the warmer season. Japan has a long history of living with risk.

For more information, please contact:
UN/ISDR Latin America and the Caribbean
San Jose, Costa Rica