|Disasters Preparedness and Mitigation - Issue No. 58 - April, 1994 (Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) / Organización Panamericana de la Salud (OPS), 1994, 8 p.)|
No country nor agency could have reached its present level of maturity with regard to disaster reduction had it remained isolated from others. For societies to make the transition from vulnerable to more secure in the face of natural disasters implies the participation of numerous protagonists both at the national and international levels: international agencies, scientific associations, universities, nongovernmental organizations, Governments, the private sector, and communities.
In the Region of the Americas, three high-level meetings have convened specifically to sustain and to increase the level of dialogue regarding the objectives of the International Decade on Natural Disaster Reduction, and to exchange national and regional experiences regarding advances made toward disaster reduction. In September 1991, representatives from 19 countries of Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean met in Guatemala City to discuss their progress and challenges regarding the goals of the Decade. Less than a year after the Guatemala meeting, in May 1 2, delegates from 23 Caribbean countries and territories assembled in Kingston, Jamaica, to review the status of efforts of individual States and in the Caribbean at large to reduce the economic cost and health impact of natural disasters, and to define the structure and role of National IDNDR Committees.
This stamp was issued by the Government of Colombia on the first day of the Inter-American Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction to commemorate the work of the National System for Disaster Prevention and Response (SNPAD) and the International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction. The elements of the SNPAD logo are a hand signalling "stop" and the superimposed human figure which is receiving protection and is representative of the community and its environment, signified by the half globe.
In March of this year, the Government of Colombia hosted more than 1,000 delegates at the Inter-American Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction in Cartagena from 21 to 24 March 1994. The objectives of the Conference were to exchange experiences among the countries of the Region, thereby encouraging and supporting technical cooperation and the development of regional efforts in disaster reduction within the framework of the IDNDR. The gathering served as a preparatory forum for the Region's participation at the World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction. The First Congress of Colombia's National System for Disaster Prevention and Response was convoked at the same time to improve integration among the country's institutions, sectors, and disciplines dealing with disaster management.
During the two plenary sessions of the Conference, national experiences and activities of regional, multilateral, and international organizations were highlighted. Collective national efforts at disaster reduction in the Caribbean were outlined by the Regional Coordinator of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), including the activities of principal regional agencies such as the Caribbean Meteorological Organization and Caribbean Meteorological Institute and their responsibilities for meteorological analysis in the Region, the Seismic Research Unit's work on volcano and earthquake monitoring, and CDERA's role in developing response capabilities among Participating States. Presentations on national characteristics, specific natural hazards, the organization of emergency response, and disaster reduction initiatives were contributed by Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States. The work of the IDNDR Secretariat with National IDNDR Committees and other agencies in the Region, as well as the activities of the Latin American Network for Social Studies in Disaster Prevention (La RED), the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA/USAID), the Organization of American States, PAHO/WHO, the Federation of Red Cross Societies, the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs (UN/DHA), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) were presented.
Conference participants were able to attend sessions on a broad range of topics, highlighting the work being undertaken by national institutes, communities, schools and universities, the health sector, civil defense agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and international agencies. Working groups focused on technical and scientific activities including seismic and volcanic monitoring and hazard assessment in Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela; structural vulnerability to hurricanes in the Caribbean; land-use planning; and the activities of the Centro de Coordinación para la Prevención de los Desastres Naturales en América Central (Coordinating Center for Natural Disaster Prevention in Central America - CEPRE-DENAC) in regional cooperation in disaster reduction.
Social and cultural aspects of natural disaster reduction activities in the Region included papers on education, public information and the role of the media, NGO involvement in development projects, and social perspectives on hazards from participants representing Colombia, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Peru, and the United States. National experiences in operation and preparedness aspects of disaster response were presented focusing on search and rescue, contingency plans, disaster medical assistance teams, emergency hospital plans and evacuation in Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Peru, the United States, and Venezuela. Institutional organization, including economic and political aspects of disaster and urban planning and land use in high risk areas were the topic of another working session.
On the final day of the Conference, the Cartagena Statement was adopted by participants for consideration by national entities and the participants of the World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction. The Statement reflects the concerns of national authorities and other participants about the focus of initiatives on scientific and technological solutions to the increasing vulnerability of the Region to natural disasters, with insufficient regard to social, cultural, and economic considerations. Disaster prevention as an explicit strategy for sustainable development has not been promoted openly within the context of the IDNDR, and recommendations were made to support a more effective articulation between prevention and mitigation activities and environmental management and protection.
The text of the Cartagena Statement can be obtained in English or Spanish from the Dirección Nacional para la Prevención y Atención a los Desastres, Calle 26 no. 1219, piso 26, Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia; Fax: (571) 286-0485.