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



Central America:

Regional Forum Mitch + 5

Since December 2003, the General Secretariat of the Andean Community, with the support of the UNDP Bureau for Crisis and Prevention and Recovery (BCPR), has been working on a project for the formulation of a Disaster Prevention and Response Strategy (DPR) in the region, which includes Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela.

This Andean Strategy –which will be submitted to the Andean Presidential Council in July 2004 for approval, will become a sub-regional policy tool and a plan of action for developing disaster prevention and response programs in this area.

This Strategy includes, as national counterparts, a number of institutions that constitute the Andean Committee for Disaster Prevention and Assistance (CAPRADE), an advisory body created in 2001 by Decision 529. In this manner, CAPRADE includes representatives from national planning authorities and officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs. In the case of Colombia, a representative from the Office for Disaster Prevention and Response, within the Ministry of the Interior, is also included. The project has been developed based on other existing initiatives at both national and regional levels, such as PREANDINO, which is being fostered by the Andean Development Corporation (CAF).

Goals of the DPR Andean Strategy

The Andean Strategy for Disaster Prevention and Response will promote the development of prevention and preparedness programs, the strengthening of policies and institutions in each country, and the creation of synergies with similar international programs. Bearing in mind that these five countries share common risks, it has been suggested that working in an integrated manner could help improve their capacity in major areas such as risk knowledge, development planning, risk management, preparedness and response in emergency situations, and risks in bordering areas, watersheds and other regions of shared interest.

One of the major characteristics of this strategy is the advancement of working agendas for development sectors, which although traditionally isolated from risk related issues, are important to address these problems. Among these sectors, it is worth mentioning roads and traffic, agriculture, power, water and basic sanitation, as well as those that, traditionally, have been considered essential such as health, land use, and housing.

Another important feature of this Andean strategy is the efforts devoted to set up sub-regional and international agendas, particularly in social and environmental fields, as well as development policies in bordering areas, as they also include converging points.

Process for formulating this strategy

The process for formulating this strategy began in December 2003 and will end during the first quarter of 2004. The project will allow for the establishment of a strategy reached by consensus in this sub-region, which will be submitted to CAPRADE on May 4. Subsequently, this strategy will be analyzed by both the Andean Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers and the Andean Presidential Council.

In order to establish this Andean strategy, each country has held working meetings and national workshops with national bodies involved in risk-related issues. The process at large has gathered some 560 officials from these five countries, representing 282 bodies, particularly at the national level.
In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch hit Central America, causing great damage and showing the existing level of vulnera
In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch hit Central America, causing great damage and showing the existing level of vulnerability to large-scale natural phenomena in this region. Since then, efforts have been made to improve risk management in these countries, including prevention, response, mitigation, and early warning systems, among others. However, there is still uncertainty about how strong the region has become in the field of vulnerability and disaster reduction among the population and within critical infrastructures.

In 1999, the governments of the Central American countries, the Dominican Republic and Belize signed the Declaration of Guatemala II, by which a Strategic Framework for Vulnerability and Disaster Reduction in Central America was established, as well as a five-year period for vulnerability and disaster impact reduction in the region during 2000-2004.

This Regional Forum, entitled Mitch + 5, was carried out in Honduras on December 9-11, with the purpose of reiterating the commitments established five years ago through the Strategic Framework for Vulnerability Reduction, signed during the 20th Summit of Central American Presidents, held in Guatemala in 1999. This framework has been promoted by the Coordination Center for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America (CEPREDENAC), with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), the Humanitarian Aid Office of the European Commission (ECHO), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Southern Commando, the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), the governments of Mexico and Taiwan, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and CARE, among others.

The Forum gathered more than 350 delegates from both civil society and governments, and resulted from a participatory process developed in each country, aimed at discussing the status of disaster reduction. Along these lines, Mitch + 5 represented an opportunity for participating countries to submit their national reports and present on the steps taken to improve disaster reduction, as well as on the main challenges faced in the region.

Methodological Outline

I. Process for Report Preparation and National Forums:

Between August and November 2003, the Central American countries started their national processes aimed at:

• Achieving institutional and technical strengthening;
• Expanding the existing network of national and internation al contacts;
• Establishing national multidisciplinary and inter- institutional teams that would include civil society in most countries;
• Preparing national reports and holding national forums: and,
• Strengthening the region and developing a restructured vision that includes the progress made and goals established to address the topic of risk reduction.

To this end, each country named national coordinators and communication focal points.

1. Ground documents for this forum: A number of reference documents and guides were prepared, which supported national processes:

1) Guides to prepare national reports
2) Guidelines for the development of national processes
3) Tasks for each body involved in the Forum (SE-CEPREDENAC, the Regional Board Committee, the Regional Advisory and Support Committee, National Advisory and Support Committees, the General Coordinator, National Coordinators, National Commissions- CEPRE DENAC, UNDP Focal Points, and Thematic Advisors).

2. National Reports: Substantive parts of these national processes were based on the guides and according to 4 thematic components and 5 aspects and goals. These reports were presented during the Regional Forum.

a. Strategies and plans by sector
b. Local capacities for risk management
c. Information, research and early warning systems
d. Institutional strengthening for emergency management.

Aspects and goals:
• Political
• Legal
• Institutional
• Programmatic
• Financial

3. National forums: These were part of the national processes and represented a common ground for government institutions, civil society, the private sector, national and international bodies, and cooperation agencies. The drafts of national reports were presented during these forums in order to complement existing information, and generate conclusions, recommendations and goals for these documents.

Based on these reports per country and the discussions held in thematic working groups, the Regional Forum was able to show:

• The level of awareness in the region regarding the need to reduce existing risks.
• Efforts and the progress made by these countries, in particular regarding the formulation of policies, programs and projects related to risk monitoring and knowledge, capacity building and strengthening for local risk management, development of strategies and sectoral plans and strategies for vulnerability reduction, and emergency management.

It was recognized that, in spite of the progress made, a number of hindrances and weaknesses still remain, particularly related to the implementation of the abovementioned strategic framework, existing vulnerability levels and, as stated by the World Disaster Report, increasing poverty levels in the region, social disintegration and insecurity, inadequate natural resource management, environmental degradation, and the disorganized growth of human settlements.

Main recommendations:

• Review and update the Strategic Framework;
• Revise, formulate and adopt State policies and national strategic plans;
• Increase efforts in order to adopt policies, strategies and mechanisms required to incorporate risk analysis and management, as a critical condition, into the planning of all public and private activities for local, national and regional development in Central America;
• Request that national public investment systems and international financial organizations require risk assessments for all projects submitted for their consideration; and,
• Increase efforts aimed at strengthening those institutions working on disaster prevention, mitigation and response, from a systemic, integrated and multi-stakeholder approach, through a process for reviewing and updating legal frameworks.

Most participants agreed that is very important to lay emphasis on disaster reduction within public and private investment programs, and consider it a cross-cutting issue to be addressed in development programs and land use plans. In addition, it is imperative to adapt existing laws and provisions in order to reduce disasters at local, national and regional levels. Participants also mentioned that it is essential to systematize best practices and experiences to constitute a common information source among colleagues in the region.

Main results:

• The development of national processes and the organization of this regional event were conducted as part of a larger and integrated process. The first phase has ended and brought about many tasks within national and regional agendas;
• The forum was considered an opportunity to analyze and reflect on the progress made, as well as existing strengths, weaknesses and goals set in these Central American countries. The need to build a regional future vision around risk reduction was also analyzed;
• The forum gathered more than 300 delegates from government institutions, international organizations, the private sector and civil society. Participants represented Central America, the United States, Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica, Colombia, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and Sweden;
• National reports were presented by thematic component in 4 simultaneous sessions;
• A number of conferences on “Risk and Development”, “the Economic Impact of Disasters”, “the Process towards Yokohama + 10” and “Transforming and Modernizing Central America towards the 21st Century” have been delivered;
• Conclusions, recommendations and goals were generated collectively and based on a regional standpoint; and,
• The Declaration of Tegucigalpa was drafted.

At the end of this event, participants were able to acquire a clearer vision about how to contribute to risk reduction, revise and update regional practices and policies for disaster risk reduction, based on the experiences of different actors and the commitment to fulfill and achieve what was stated in the Declaration of Tegucigalpa.

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