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

ISDR Global


The World Conference on Disaster Reduction:
An opportunity for action

The World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) is a milestone event to increase the profile of disaster risk reduction in development planning and practice. The Conference will provide a unique opportunity to promote a strategic and systematic approach at the national level to address vulnerabilities and to reduce risk to natural hazards.

Commitment to the reduction of disasters has been growing although actual materialization is still slow. Human and economic losses due to natural disasters continue to rise and remain as a major obstacle to sustainable development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). New risks are emerging. The WCDR is expected to guide and motivate governments and their policy makers to pay more attention to such vital issues, identifying practical ways to incorporate risk reduction measures into action to reduce poverty.

The Conference will build on the findings of the review of the implementation of the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action of 19941, aiming at:

• Assessing achievements and identifying good practices;
• Defining the remaining challenges, critical needs and opportunities in disaster reduction initiatives worldwide and examining emerging issues; and,
• Developing a set of objectives and areas of action for disaster risk reduction to implement the objectives of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation for Sustainable Development, as essential conditions to achieve the relevant Millennium Development Goals (MDG's).

The Conference is scheduled to be held on 18-22 January 2005 in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan and will take place immediately after the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake which struck Kobe and its neighbouring area in the early hours on 17 January 1995, killing more than 6,400 people and injuring about 40,000.

Expected Outcome
Based on the objectives set out by the General Assembly, the main outcome of the Conference is foreseen in the following areas:

• Increased awareness, recognition and political endorsement for implementing disaster risk reduction and mobilizing local, national and international resources.
• Clearer directions and priorities for action at international, regional, national and local levels to ensure implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and to support the achievement of the objectives of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the Millennium Development Goals.
• Adoption of a set of goals and policy measures to guide and stimulate the implementation of disaster risk reduction, both on what to achieve and 'how-to-do' risk reduction.
• Launching of specific initiatives and partnerships to support the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

Preparatory Process
The preparation of the Conference is supported by the following mechanisms:

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 special unit for WCDR has been established, coordinating the preparations of the World 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 member2 , 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 2004, following the ninth session of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Disaster Reduction. (summary report available at The second session of the Preparatory Committee is scheduled for 11-12 October 2004 in Geneva and possibly a third meeting will take place immediately prior to the conference. Between the Preparatory Committee sessions, a number of consultations are planned under the guidance of the Bureau members.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Disaster Reduction (IATF/DR) serves as a vehicle to support substantive discussions at the WCDR. The ninth IATF/DR session in May 2004 in Geneva reviewed the implementation of the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action for a Safer World of 1994, and discussed extensively the proposed elements for the programme outcome of the WCDR. With a view to providing specific guidance on the substantive work of the Conference, a working group has also been established by the Task Force.

The discussions held in a number of regional and thematic meetings organized by partner agencies in a variety of locations are 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. The list of regional and thematic meetings as well as a compilation of their outcomes is available on the WCDR website.

The ISDR secretariat is undertaking an on-line dialogue from 15 June to 15 July 2004 to discuss priority areas for further action to implement disaster risk reduction 2005-2015. The outcome of the discussion is expected to contribute directly to the review of the Yokohama Strategy and indirectly to the intergovernmental consultations. The outcome will be made available on the WCDR website.

Format of the Conference

The WCDR will be composed of three main processes, namely an intergovernmental segment; a thematic segment for knowledge exchange; and a forum for public participation. The Conference will take place in the Portopia Hotel and the a djoining International Conference Center, Kobe and the Kobe International Exhibition Halls, in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture.

4.1 Intergovernmental segment

The Intergovernmental segment will provide the venue for delegates to make statements, to discuss and negotiate on the outcomes of the Conference for final adoption. In addition to the Plenary Hall (Ohwada Room, Portopia Hotel), a Main Committee Room (Kairaku Room) will be allocated for negotiation and drafting purposes. Rooms will be available to delegations for bilateral and group consultations upon request to the WCDR secretariat.

4.2 Thematic segment

Coordinated by the WCDR secretariat, the thematic segment is intended to complement the discussions on the programme outcome at the intergovernmental level, with the following particular focuses3:

• to exchange experiences and good practices in order to enhance the implementation of the programme outcome, as well as to identify issues requiring further discussion at international, regional, national, and community levels; and,
• to launch specific initiatives or partnerships to support the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, as well as to facilitate networking and exchange of information between partners and organization.
The Thematic segment will consist of three high-level round tables and a number of parallel sessions clustered under five themes, as well as a regional session.

High Level Round Tables
The High Level Round Tables will address themes identified by the Review of the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action, that require greater political commitment, media visibility and high level participation in the form of an open discussion with Governments and partners. In particular, the identified themes correspond to key challenges and emerging issues of the disaster risk reduction agenda which require special attention.

The three High Level Round Tables are tentatively scheduled in the Plenary Hall on 18 and 19 January 2005. Each round table will be opened by a recognised keynote speaker, followed by a panel discussion with Heads of Delegations, Heads of Agencies, community leaders and experts.

Thematic Sessions
The proposed parallel sessions will be directly related to the outcome of the Conference and the issues being discussed in the intergovernmental process. They will be clustered together under five themes identified as the priority areas of work for the next ten years through the Review of the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action as well as through consultations with partners. These clusters will be formulated in such a manner to correspond closely with the five key objectives, priorities and targeted actions that will be the subjects for discussion at the intergovernmental segment.

A panel, representing key organizations carrying out activities related to the theme, and country representatives, will open each of the five thematic clusters. The Thematic Clusters will be chaired by government representatives. The chairs will be supported in the preparation and in the running of the Thematic Cluster by Agencies and Organizations that have expressed specific commitments in this regard (see the list below). Each Thematic Cluster will then break up into a number of sessions running in parallel. The list of proposed themes appears in the box.
Session organizers will be requested to report back on the outcome of the discussion to the chairperson, who will then compile and summarize the discussions and report to the Plenary. It is also expected that a separate report will be published, compiling the information (e.g. lessons learnt and good practices) shared in the parallel sessions, to serve as a guide for others to learn from past experiences.

Agencies, governments, NGO's and other partners who are accredited to the WCDR are invited to organise sessions that will contribute to the Thematic Segment under one of the five proposed themes. As interest in the sessions is high and the number of rooms at the venue is limited, partners planning sessions on similar topics are encouraged to collaborate closely and as much as possible, to organise joint sessions. Preference will be given to events that are organized jointly by governmental, non-governmental and intergovernmental partners. The WCDR secretariat will facilitate the collaboration between session organizers.

The size and the format of each parallel session (panel discussion, presentation, round table, question and answer session) are for the session convenor to decide. The WCDR secretariat will provide the information as to the capacity and equipment of the allocated room. The venue with standard equipment (microphones, projector, screen) is free of charge. Interpretation services will be at the charge of the convenor of the session.

Regional Session

In addition to the five thematic discussions, a Regional Session will take place in the Plenary Hall, allowing for an exchange of experience and lessons learned from each region. That session is tentatively scheduled for 21 January 2005 in the afternoon.

The consolidated programme will be prepared by the WCDR secretariat in advance of the Conference and put on the WCDR website.

4.3 Public forum

The public form will consist of 1) Workshops; 2) Exhibition booths; 3) Poster Session; and 4) NGO Center. They provide an opportunity to promote organizations' own activities through poster, video and film sessions and public exhibition and to engage in open debates, seminars and a variety of events. Organizers may include governments, NGOs, technical institutions, and private sector. No special status through accreditation will be required to organize such events. Groups wishing to organize events under the Public Forum are able to apply on-line at the WCDR website. This forum will be open to the general public (particularly school and university students) and Conference participants. It will take place in the immediate vicinity of the Conference's intergovernmental and thematic segments, in the International Conference Centre, Kobe and in the Kobe International Exhibition Hall.

Cuadro 1

1. Governance: institutional and policy frame works for risk reduction (UNDP, UN-HABITAT, UNV, ProVention Consortium)
2. Risk identification, assessment, monitoring and early warning (WMO, EC/JRC4, UNU)
3. Knowledge management and education: building a culture of resilient communities
4. Reducing the underlying risk factors (UNEP, WHO, UNCRD)
5. Preparedness for effective response (OCHA, WFP)

The three themes are:

1)Disaster Risk: The Next Development Challenge

Sustainable development is threatened by increasing disasters. Development practices and investments need to systematically take into account the risk of natural and related hazards. Heads of development programmes and financial institutions, as well as a Government Minister and a Mayor from a major city will provide their views on how to meet this challenge.

2) Learning to Live with Risk

Education, professional training, and the exchange of information are one of the most powerful forces to cut disaster risk. Heads of key international organizations, leading scholars and a Government Minister will discuss what is required, at the start of the decade on education for sustainable development, to expand educational and training processes to develop a broad culture of prevention.

3) Emerging Risks: What Will Tomorrow Hold?

Climate change, deforestation, rapid urbanisation, and spreading diseases are among the many examples of emerging trends that demonstrate the growing consequences of disaster risks. Heads of agencies and leading experts in these fields will consider the implications for decision makers.


1. Governance: institutional and policy frameworks for risk reduction

• Socio-economic policies and effective utilization of resources (linking to poverty eradication, private and public resources)
• Environmental policies (integration into existing environmental policies and management practices)
• Risk reduction and sustainable development
• National policies, institutional developments and legislation, national coordination
• Local authorities and municipality policies for risk reduction
• Community action and participation
• Regional institutional frameworks and policies
• Financial institutions' policies to promote and support risk reduction
• Transparency - accountability
• Indicators and indexing to support progress and performance

2. Risk identification, assessment, monitoring and early warning

• Hazard and vulnerability assessments - methodologies
• Disaster impact assessments and methodologies
• Forecasting and early warning - communicating risk
• Space technology and disaster reduction
• Vulnerability and capacity assessments at local level
• Climate and environmental risk assessment
• Management of Natechs and other emerging systemic risks
• Data-collection and information use to reduce risk
• Urban risk - an increasing concern
• Drought

3. Knowledge management and education: building a culture of resilient communities

• Education for sustainable development - disaster risk reduction in schools
• Disaster risk reduction at university and postgraduate levels
• Research agendas
• Training: formal and informal (community action)
• Media and disaster risk reduction - public awareness raising tools
• The voice of the civil society in disaster risk reduction

4. Reducing the underlying risk factors

• Rebuilding safer communities - sustainable solutions in recovery and reconstruction
• Land use planning
• Safety nets and livelihoods approaches to reduce risk
• Insurance - financial instruments - micro finance
• Safer construction - compliance with codes (cases and lessons-learned)
• Business and private sector investing in disaster risk reduction
• Environmental management and risk reduction
• Community action: where it has worked
• Gender issues and disaster risk reduction
• Health and risk reduction

5. Preparedness for effective response

• From relief to development
• Disaster response and response preparedness mechanisms in the context of disaster reduction
• Strengthening preparedness: linking early warning to effective response
• Financing the real cost of disaster response
• Development of response tools through non-traditional partnerships
• Prevention, preparedness and response to environmental emergencies