International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Meetings & conferences on disaster reduction

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Diagnosis: Education for Risk Prevention and Reduction in Latin America and the Caribbean

For more than a decade, a large number of countries have worked on aspects related to emergency preparedness, including the development of emergency plans at the school level. However, little progress has been made –in conceptual and methodological terms-, in linking education for risk and disaster prevention to development management in Latin American and Caribbean countries.

In the field of education, disaster-related issues are still treated in an isolated manner, and they are not entirely linked to existing risks with which large vulnerable populations deal on a daily basis in Latin America and the Caribbean. The education sector must promote and give more emphasis to these issues, particularly through formal education, in order to analyze, reflect on and take actions to address the real causes of disasters and their correlation with risk conditions and development trends.

The ISDR Regional Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean is currently carrying out an analysis of the current status of education for risk and disaster prevention and reduction in the region, in order to identify those actions that must be strengthened in the near future. This would promote, among other things, the following aspects:

• Raise public awareness of disaster reduction among teachers, students, authorities and experts from the education sector.

• Reach a decisive commitment with public education, environmental and planning authorities to attain the aforementioned goal.

• Foster interdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder working relationships among governments, cooperation agencies, the scientific community, the media and other groups to reduce both risks and disasters through education.

The study

This research is intended to make contributions to regional processes aimed at changing attitudes and aptitudes among the population; improving education according to policies, standards and objectives adopted for risk reduction; and promoting a culture of prevention.

An analysis of the evolution of education related to risks and disasters –during the last ten years- was carried out by reviewing bibliographies and interviewing staff members responsible for educational aspects in institutions working on disaster-related issues (for example ONEMI, Chile; INDECI, Peru; and COPECU, Honduras, among others). Whenever educational experiences were identified, interviews were also held with officials from the ministries of education and the environment.

Results from this study are expected to become a tool for people who work on educational aspects (formal and non- formal education), as this analysis will allow for a better understanding of the current situation of disaster-related issues. These findings will also serve as inputs for the appropriate design of future proposals.

This research is being conducted in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Haiti.

The following are some of the topics included in this analysis:

• Identification of laws, policies and standards related to the further development of education for risk and disaster prevention and reduction;
• Currents trends when addressing these issues (a vision based upon responses, an integrated vision for risk reduction associated with education and environmental management, among others);
• Modalities for including these issues in current curricula (cross-cutting issues through specific subjects, projects, etc.);
• Methodological strategies for teaching-learning processes related to these topics;
• Production of educational materials (guides for teachers, learning guidelines, books, brochures, audiovisual material, etc.);
• Training for current and future teachers;
• Awareness-raising activities intended for education authorities, experts and administrative staff;
• Inclusion of risk management criteria in school infrastructure (training provided to technical staff, risk reduction and management indicators, etc.);
• Identification of master’s degrees, doctoral programs and specialized courses, among others.

To date, this research has allowed us to conclude that:

• Currently, initiatives related to education for disaster prevention are gaining momentum; however, these initiatives not always respond to the needs and realities of these countries.

• There is the need for a greater level of inter-agency, inter-institutional coordination, so that these initiatives contribute to strengthening the work, still incipient, done
by the ministries of education in the region.

In this context, a forum to discuss all these issues is being organized. The event will take place in El Salvador during the second quarter of this year, as an appropriate space to exchange ideas, analyze and develop proposals to strengthen the education sector and the way it addresses disaster-related issues. Results from this forum are expected to serve as inputs for the Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction, to be held in Kobe in 2005.

Claudia Cárdenas B
Consultant for ISDR