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



On the Road to Kobe, Hyogo

The issue of disaster reduction is gaining momentum within and outside of the UN. Over the past decades, the world has witnessed an exponential increase in human and material losses due to disasters caused by natural hazards, particularly of hydro-meteorological origin. It is now widely recognised that development processes themselves can contribute to the growing vulnerability to natural disasters. In addition, the effect of climate change and the risks posed by the increasing degradation of the environment, aggravated by deforestation, loss of biodiversity, reduced water quality and supply, as well as desertification have led to an estimated increase of some 70 million people at risk each year.

According to the recently published UNDP report , 75 % of the world’s population live in areas that have been affected at least once between 1980 and 2000 by earthquake, tropical cyclones, flood or drought. As stated in the ISDR Report (Living with Risk) in 2003 alone, over 70,000 people perished in some 700 disasters that affected 600 million men, women and children and caused US$ 65 billion in damages. Global trends show that disasters will increase because of human activities and more people – in particular the poor – will be affected as they grow more vulnerable. Over three-quarters of the 100 largest cities in the world are situated in locations exposed to potential serious natural hazards.

As a result of these alarming realities in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as in other parts of the world, there is an increasing concern from the international community and national governments to address these issues. In December 2003, the UN General Assembly adopted two resolutions in support of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. Previously postponed in 2002 (when the GA took the decision to conduct the review of the Yokohama Strategy an Plan of Action), resolution A/RES/58/214 conveyed the decision to convene the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan (18-22 January 2005). As stated in the resolution, the World Conference is expected to bring about concrete changes and results in the form of specific guidance and mechanisms to help countries and organizations achieve significant progress in reducing risk from natural and technological hazards. The main objectives of the World Conference are to conclude the review of the 1994 Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action and identify activities aimed at ensuring the implementation of relevant provisions of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

The preparations for the World Conference for Disaster Reduction are under way. The United Nations General Assembly through its resolution A/RES/58/214, has requested the ISDR secretariat to serve as the secretariat of the conference. A Bureau consisting of five representatives of Member states elected on the basis of equitable geographical representation and the host country as an ex-officio member , has been fully functional and is leading the discussion in reviewing the organizational and substantive preparations for the Conference.

The first session of the open-ended intergovernmental preparatory committee took place in Geneva in May, following the ninth session of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Disaster Reduction. The second session of the PrepCom is scheduled for 11-12 October 2004. Between the PrepCom sessions, a number of consultations are planned under the guidance of the Bureau Members.

The discussions held in a number of regional and thematic meetings organized by partner agencies in different parts of the world are also contributing to the preparatory process from their relevant perspectives. They provide inputs to the review of achievements and lessons learnt on disaster risk reduction; identifying areas that need to be addressed; proposing elements for future action.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, several thematic or regional consultations have been held since last year as a contribution to the preparatory process leading to the WCDR (see the map on the page 3). Most recently, PAHO organized two consultations, one for Latin America and another one for the Caribbean in the field of vulnerability reduction of the health facilities and of drinking water systems. The consultations resulted in a set of tangible recommendations for the future. Other thematic consultations are being planned by UNESCO, OAS, PAHO and IFRC, on topics related to education, communications and public information.

As a contribution to the Yokohama review process, the ISDR Secretariat launched in July the second version of the global report “Living with Risk”. Drawn from studies commissioned by UN/ISDR and activities carried out by regional partner organizations, with inputs from various UN organizations, national governments and specialized institutions, the global review is a guide and a key reference document for all those interested in disaster risk reduction, humanitarian action and sustainable development. It directly complements the UNDP report “Reducing Disaster Risk: A Challenge for Development” launched in early 2004. “Living with Risk” explores the ways in which the understanding of disaster risk reduction has evolved over recent years and provides a comprehensive compilation of initiatives and reference information related to disaster risks around the world.

Recent developments in Latin America

In Central America significant process has also been made in consolidating the objectives and strategic framework of CEPREDENAC. In December 2003, CEPREDENAC and UNDP organized the Forum Mitch+5 in collaboration with ISDR Secretariat and several other agencies. The objective of the Forum was to analyze the progress made in the field of disaster reduction since the Hurricane Mitch, devastated the region in 1998. The regional forum contributed to the preparatory process of WCDR by producing several tangible recommendations for the future.

Another achievement that needs to be mentioned here is the recent advances made in the Andean sub-region. Since December 2003, the General Secretariat for Andean Community, with the support of UNDP and CAF, has been working on the formulation of the Andean Strategy for disaster prevention and response. One of the main characteristics of this strategy is the advancement of working agendas for development sectors, such as agriculture, energy, water, health and sanitation, land use planning etc.

The Strategy endorses ISDR as an international framework and guiding mechanism for the Andean strategy. The Andean Strategy was discussed and approved in June 2004 by the five member countries of CAPRADE and will be submitted to the Andean Presidential council in July 2004.

Other recent developments in Latin America and the Caribbean include the creation of new national platforms. Over the couple of last months, several countries, such as Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia, established their national multi-sectorial platforms for disaster reduction. Several other countries are in the process of creating them. The establishment of new platforms as well as the expressions of interest in doing so, are clear indicators of increased commitment to fulfill the ISDR goals at the national levels.

We hope that you enjoy this issue of ISDR Informs. Comments and suggestions are welcome. Please share your own experiences and lessons learned regarding disaster reduction by sending contributions to be published in this magazine.

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

1- Reducing Disaster Risk: A challenge for development, UNDP
2-The Bureau is componed of the following members: Ecuadro representing Latin American and Caribbean Status (Chair), Fenedral Republic of Germany representing Western Europe and others group, Islamic Republic of Iran representing Asian Status (Rapporteur), Morocco representing African Status, Russian Federation representing Estern European Status and Japan (exofficio & co-chair)