The PREDECAN Project: Supporting Disaster Prevention In The Andean Community



With the increase in economic and human losses and the need to mobilize resources to rebuild disaster affected areas, the subject of risk prevention and management has taken on greater importance in the Andean countries, both in prospective terms and in response to a series of intense events. A complex territory where diverse natural, socio-natural, and man-made threats converge in a socioeconomic context characterized by high levels of poverty and social exclusion, the Andean subregion has experienced more than 57,000 disasters in the last 30 years, with thousands of casualties, and hundreds of thousands of surviving victims.

The recurrence and severity of the disasters experienced revealed the need to include the issue in the countries’ national agendas, since such disasters affect the development of the impacted areas and constrain and/or delay achievement of social wellbeing goals established by the governments and development agencies.1 In view of these challenges, what advances and contributions were achieved by the Project to Support Disaster Prevention in the Andean Community (PREDECAN)?

After nearly five years of supporting risk management in the Andean Community, the PREDECAN Project ended, sharing valuable experiences with its implementers and beneficiaries in each country, based on the firm belief that capacity to learn is the greatest kind of wealth. So it is important to summarize the process that has given us some certainties, new questions, and interesting lines of action to be further examined.

In 2003, the signing of an agreement between the European Commission and the Secretary General of the Andean Community, in association with the Andean Committee for Disaster Prevention and Response (CAPRADE) was a step toward developing the PREDECAN Project as a supporting element in implementing the prevention policies set forth in the Andean Strategy for Disaster Prevention and Response (EAPAD), which was approved in 2004 by the Andean Council of Foreign Ministers.

It is in this way that PREDECAN sought to contribute to reducing the vulnerability of people and property exposed to natural hazards and risks, and to promote sustainable development in the countries of the Andean community. Its specific goal was to improve services in the area of risk management by strengthening national policies, institutions, and the coordination of activities in these areas.


The project’s managing body was established in March 2005, made up of a director, a person in charge of international technical assistance-related issues, an advisor and a subregional administrator. It also had the valuable support of the technical results coordinators and three administrative assistants, as well as other high-level professionals, including international consultants and specialists. The contracting and management of international technical assistance was handled by the consortium formed by World Development Consultants and Infrastructure & Ecology, Ltd., both from Spain, and BETA Studios and the Autonomous Province of Trento, Italy.

PREDECAN’s results were based on the five thematic axes articulated in the Andean Strategy for Disaster Prevention and Response (EAPAD), which in turn were based on the priorities identified by each country. National coordinators were then appointed to coordinate and solve technical and methodological issues, as well as the assistance required by each country during the execution of the project, all in direct and ongoing coordination with the technical results coordinators.

Lines of Intervention

PREDECAN operated for four and a half years, with financing of 12.5 million Euros, of which the European Commission contributed 9.45 million and the participating countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela) contributed the remaining 2.95 million Euros. In keeping with its philosophy of being a facilitating project, PREDECAN accompanied and assisted CAPRADE in its mission to implement the Andean Strategy for Disaster Prevention and Response.

The continuous training processes promoted and facilitated by PREDECAN – which reached nearly 8,000 people, most of whom represent institutions and civil society at the subregional, national, and local levels – have contributed to developing a comprehensive approach to risk intervention that seeks, in a parallel fashion, to avoid generating new risks, reduce existing risks, and strengthen capacity to respond to disasters. Along these lines, PREDECAN organized its actions around five results that correspond to the thematic axes outlined in the Andean Strategy, in order to make its proposals more viable and improve services in the area of risk management.

Result 1: National Policies And Organization

PREDECAN supported the Andean countries in the areas of organization, policy development, strategic planning, legal frameworks, and in the search for financial resources related to disaster prevention and response and risk management. It also supported the institutional consolidation of CAPRADE, as a space for coordinating joint actions and mutual support for disaster prevention and response and risk management, through the establishment of common policies, the exchange of experiences, and the creation of thematic and institutional networks.

With the goal of making risk reduction a national and local priority with a strong institutional, legal, and financial basis, the Strategic Agendas for Strengthening Risk Management in each country were developed in a participatory manner. Colombia and Ecuador incorporated these agendas into their National Development Plans.

To address the issue of national platforms and systems within each country, PREDECAN used process analysis to look at organizational strengthening and institutional coordination for risk management with different scopes in each country. This analysis generated recommendations for providing guidance and improving their processes. PREDECAN also trained national officials from CAPRADE and other entities in strategic planning and risk management monitoring efforts in each country, as well as in identifying financial protection options in case of disasters by analyzing different alternatives at the subregional and country-wide levels.

One important advance that CAPRADE institutions achieved with the support of PREDECAN was in terms of updating and harmonizing the Andean Strategy for Disaster Prevention and Response with the international policies set forth by the UN in the Hyogo Framework for Action, approved by more than 160 nations, including the Andean countries, in 2005.

These activities were possible with the technical support of three international consultants – all highly regarded professionals with distinguished careers and international renown – in the following areas: conceptual and organizational aspects, processes, finance, and risk transfer mechanisms.

Result 2: Information And Knowledge

PREDECAN supported CAPRADE in strengthening national and subregional capacities with regard to mechanisms for managing information, policies, and effective and timely interventions to reduce and control the adverse effects of hazardous phenomena, with the aim of reinforcing decision-making processes and risk management activities.

For this reason, the Andean Information System for Disaster Prevention and Response (SIAPAD, by its Spanish acronym) was conceived and designed using an integrated, distributive, standardized, and dynamic approach. SIAPAD is able to adapt to new supplies of information generated by institutions to support risk management, including the needs and demands of users.

SIAPAD has three tools for accessing and using information: GEORiesgo, a network of four national portals with mapping and documentary information; BiVa-PaD, a network of virtual libraries for disaster prevention and response, with more than 40 participating bodies, which allow the collection, organization, and dissemination of documentary information; and DesInventar, a portal that facilitates consultation and analysis of the effects of disasters, in formats such as tables, graphs, and thematic maps.

As part of this effort, PREDECAN supported national initiatives to standardize data, trained more than 550 staff in charge of managing information, and digitalized more than 4,000 documents, more than 200 multimedia resources, and a directory of more than 800 institutions and organizations. This information served as input for the creation of a hazard, exposure, and risk Atlas for the countries of the Andean subregion.

A key element for this result was the contribution of a consultant from the subregion who supported the area of risk awareness for the development of the Atlas, as well as a team of two national consultants in each country.

Result 3: Planning And Development

This result aimed to help make disaster risk a relevant topic in development decision-making processes, so that measures are incorporated to prevent or reduce disasters.

For that reason PREDECAN conducted an analysis of the advances in incorporating risk management as a public policy priority for local, national, and subregional development, through the creation of guidelines and methodological guides. These were incorporated into practices related to land use/zoning, planning, and development, as well as for measures for adapting to climate change in the agriculture and livestock industry, and strategies for their implementation.

PREDECAN also supported pilot projects on disaster risk assessment methodologies and analysis, which included capacity building and practical training for the stakeholders involved in these projects at the local and national levels.

This group of activities benefited from the participation of international experts who helped shape the concept of safety in the location, construction, and operation of investment projects to ensure sustainable use of land in the countries of the Andean Community.

Result 4: Education And Communication

One of PREDECAN’s main tasks was to increase levels of awareness and knowledge about risk management. This is essential to ensure that different actors (from both institutions and civil society) have access to information for decision-making and for citizen participation with regard to risk management-related issues.

Toward this end, PREDECAN established a Virtual Network of Educators and Communicators for Risk Management, which currently boasts 3,200 subscribers. In the area of higher education, PREDECAN supported the formation of an Andean Network of more than 32 universities on risk management and climate change, with the aim of designing and conducting research projects and supporting academic programs.

PREDECAN also helped establish guidelines and policies for incorporating risk management into school curricula and organized a series of national and subregional workshops to raise awareness among more than 350 communicators about the social focus of risk management. Additionally, the Andean Subregional Journalism Competition on Risk Management and Disaster Prevention and Response helped generate a greater number of articles on the subject.

In order to get a better sense of the focus and type of news generated about risk management, PREDECAN conducted an analysis of journalistic coverage on issues related to risk management in online newspapers in the Andean Community. As a result, it promoted innovative communication strategies through the publication of a document called Public Journalism for Disaster and Risk Management, which was an analysis of various representations of disasters in the news media, the actions of social change that require a new journalistic focus to address risk management and sustainable development as an informational frame of reference.

Through these actions, PREDECAN promoted a strategy for raising awareness, training, and education about risk management, which also included the development of educational and communications materials such as the five micro radio programs for the audio documentary series titled Con el Riesgo Ni de Riesgo (With or Without Risk).

Result 5: Participation In Local Risk Management

Within the framework of CAPRADE’s activities, the PREDECAN project promoted the strengthening of local capacity for comprehensive risk management, which included the exchange of information, decision-making processes, and the implementation of demonstrative projects.

To achieve this, PREDECAN prioritized two areas of focus: participatory pilot projects for local risk management in four municipalities within the subregion; and the identification, systematization, and dissemination of significant experiences that yielded lessons learned for local risk management.

The four pilot projects were implemented in San Borja, in Bolivia; Los Patios, in Colombia; Puerto Viejo, in Ecuador; and Calca, in Peru. They sought to articulate and put into practice, on a local scale, the different criteria and tools developed with the national institutions in the areas of policy, organization, information, education, and communication. Thanks to the commitment of the local authorities, the support of national and regional entities, and the facilitation of various non-governmental organizations, the concepts of safety and sustainability in development processes were infused into these projects. Additionally, capacity for local risk management was strengthened by undertaking studies about risks, and instruments for development planning, land use, and emergency management at the municipal, school, and community levels.

Along these same lines, the Andean competition called “Local Development Policies and Practices Related to Disaster Risks: Identifying Significant Experiences in the Countries of the Andean Subregion” gathered 229 experiences from the subregion (63 from Bolivia, 63 from Colombia, 42 from Ecuador, and 61 from Peru). The experiences of the 16 finalists (four per country), as well as those of the four pilot projects, were systematized and published, allowing for the dissemination of lessons and processes in the field of risk reduction promoted by the authorities, social organizations, and the community at large.

One aspect worth highlighting was the creation and strengthening of a Technical Accompaniment Committee for the pilot projects in each country, with the participation of CAPRADE, scientific bodies, and various government ministries from each country, as well as with international technical assistance from the Autonomous Province of Trento, Italy.


The achievements of the Support Project for Disaster Prevention in the Andean Community (PREDECAN), as CAPRADE’s facilitating body, would not have been possible without the participation of a number of institutions responsible for disaster prevention and response systems: the Secretariat for Risk Management; planning departments; ministries of foreign affairs, the environment, housing, agriculture, economy and finance; civil defense organizations and scientific/technical institutions. Additionally, there was participation of the academic sector (both at the basic and university levels), non-governmental organizations, municipalities, and especially international cooperation agencies such as the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office and its Disaster Preparedness Program (DIPECHO). All of these actors played a pivotal role in promoting the results we see today, and it was thanks to their support that such an intense effort was undertaken to build a future toward effective disaster risk management in the Andean subregion. All this contributes to sustainable development as an effort of the Andean Community countries in the context of their integration process.

PREDECAN based its work on the words of the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, who stated that, “More effective prevention strategies would not only save tens of billions of dollars, but hundreds of thousands of lives as well. Funds currently spent on intervention and relief could be devoted to enhance equitable and sustainable development instead, which would further reduce the risk of wars and disaster. Building a culture of prevention is not easy, however. While the cost of prevention has to be paid in the present, its benefits lie in the distant future. Moreover, the benefits are not tangible; they are wars and disasters that do not happen”.

It is essential at this time to maintain a stable and ongoing commitment to continuing the implementation of the Andean Strategy for Disaster Prevention and Response. The challenge now is to start exploring the paths proposed during these last few years. Each institution and each professional must make an effort to increase their level of awareness and face the new challenges that will arise along the way. And although there is still much left to do, the work that has been done thus far has helped to lay the foundation and create the tools needed for different social actors to work in a joint and articulated manner on behalf of the most vulnerable population in the Andean subregion.